Doug Sleeter’s Advice on How To Become A Better Accounting Firm

In this competitive space, every accounting firm is looking for ways to stay on top. However, without proper guidance/knowledge, some firms can stray away and focus their efforts in the wrong direction.

Keeping this in mind, Ace Cloud Hosting has collaborated with its leadership board member, Doug Sleeter, who shares some valuable tips on how to become a better accounting firm.

Douglas (Doug) Sleeter is the founder and former CEO of The Sleeter Group. He has been featured on Accounting Today’s list of ‘Top 100 Most Popular Influential People in Accounting’ for eight years straight from 2008 to 2015. He was awarded ‘Small Business Influencer Champion’ by Small Business Trends in 2013 and inducted in The CPA Practice Advisor Hall of Fame in the accounting profession. Doug is also the author of The QuickBooks Consultant’s Reference Guide and QuickBooks Complete.

Let’s watch the video by Doug to know more –

Video Transcription:

In this video, I am going to give you some tips on how to become a better accounting firm. This will also apply to any business owner because, really, at the end of the day what you are doing is building a better business.

In today’s world, client expectations are forever changing. What they are expecting from you is new ways of interacting with you as a business. A while back, we did some surveys of “What SMBs Want”, we called it – that small business owners.  What do they want from their accounting firm?

What we found is they wanted all of the common things like- they want your responsiveness, they want your expertise, they want to be able to access you anytime, anywhere, which is very hard for a business to be available 24/7, of course, but they want this from you. They want mobile access to your firm; they want you to be in the cloud, meaning; they want you to have a website where they can look up what you do, and how you do it, and how to contact you.

These are obvious things in today’s world, but if you are not always thinking about how you look to the outside business owner, then you are not bringing the kind of success to your own firm that you need to do. I kind of think of this as under a hashtag – I call it #AgilityTrumpsAbility.

So,while you may be really good at doing whatever you do and really expert in all of the compliance pieces of doing an accounting business unless you are agile – this is an attitude of agility and always learning new things then you won’t keep up with what these new client expectations are.

So, I like to really say agility trumps ability. So the best way to succeed as any business is to focus on your processes. It’s not really what you are delivering, but it’s the process by which you are delivering that will enhance your own success. You become the habits you develop. The way you provide each service has steps in the process, and I want you to really focus there as opposed to- we do taxes, we do financial statements, we do advisory services, but how do you do them? What are your staffing? What do your staff do every day? How do they do it, and what is the workflow within?

So, this is the key thing as the process that you implement in your business will determine your ultimate success.

The other thing is I don’t want you to try to do everything for everyone. Decide what you are gonna do and focus there. If you try to focus at everything, you are nothing to nobody. We say- if you try to be everything to everyone, you are nothing to nobody.

So, really decide what you are going to do, and part of that would be – think about which customers you are going to serve. I like to say go vertical – decide which business types you can serve best. It might be from your background, the types of businesses you have already really learned in-depth.

Because again, back in my ‘What SMBs Want’ survey, what we found is that every business owner wants you, as their accountant, to be an expert in their business type. So, it’s not that just you are an expert in accounting and tax, but you are actually an expert in their business type as well, as it relates to accounting and tax – so I say go vertical.

So, choose 2-3 verticals, learn them in-depth, and then market yourself to those verticals in your marketing materials. So that’s a critical thing. Don’t try to do everything to everyone.

The other thing is – think about paper. So, think about- paper is the enemy of process. It’s not that I think it will ever go paperless. I don’t think that’s realistic. I think paper is really valuable. I like to print things out, look at them, and make notes. Fine! But paper as part of your process – So let’s say approval workflows for paying bills in an organization or whatever.

If I am going to put papers from desk to desk to desk for signup, what if somebody is gone or on vacation or out to lunch or something has to be rushed through or what if something gets lost or God forbid there is a fire. Paper should be the enemy of process.

What I am saying to do about that? Well, take paper, scan it in if it’s already on paper, or never make it into paper, put it into systems that are electronic workflow. I use a product called for my bank bills; many of you do too. I just can’t recommend that enough. Take your accounts payable and get it off paper, take it electronic through the processing systems. That’s a great example, and there are many others. I am sure you can come up with for your own firm.

So, this is all kind of coming back to – manual processes are your enemy as well as paper is your enemy. So, what can you do to look at every process you are doing within your company and what you are doing manually, and often the manual things are – I am typing something here, maybe in best case, I am copy-pasting it to somewhere else.

Obviously, this is the stuff you are really going to look at under the heading of #AgilityTrumpsAbility. You are looking at what you are doing and saying – Wait! There is got to be a better way, and almost always you will find software or some sort of solution out there that will help you to automate these kinds of things.

At the end of all this, for the successful accounting firm, what this is all doing is getting you out of the process of doing the compliance work and into the advisory work. Back to that “What SMBs Want report”. What they want, almost more than anything is your proactive strategic advice. So, I leave you with that. Think about becoming more proactive and strategic in everything you do.

Key Takeaways

In this video, Doug Sleeter sheds light on the expectations of SMBs from an accounting firm. Then we went on to explain how #AgilityTrumpsAability and why it is important to keep pace with the latest developments to offer the best services to clients.

He also discusses how it is better to deliver expert services to specific business types as it increases reliability among businesses.

Following a paperless approach is another thing that Doug finds important for an accounting firm to improve its workflow. He also mentions manual tasks as the enemy and how automating them will help in optimizing productivity.

Lastly, Doug presses on the importance of being a proactive strategic advisor to businesses for an accounting firm, instead of doing just compliance work.

All these tips will help you keep pace with other firms in the market and deliver best-in-class services to clients.

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About Julie Watson

Julie is a dynamic professional with over 16 years of rich experience as a VDI and Application Hosting expert. At Ace Cloud Hosting, she humanizes disruptive and emerging remote working trends to help leaders discover new and better possibilities for digital transformation and innovation by using cloud solutions with an enterprise-class security approach. Beyond work, Julie is a passionate surfer.
On the weekend, you will find her hanging out with her family or surfing around the North Shore of Oahu.

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