Today more than ever, change is constant and relentless. And its rate (unlike Australia’s interest) continues to increase, driven in no small part by technology and digital innovation. With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at trends we’re seeing across a range of different industries, and summed up our top 5 that our industry should take note of leading into 2017:
#1 Mile Deep, 12 Inches Wide
Accountants have traditionally taken an “inch wide, mile deep” approach – that of a true specialist, offering clients a high level of expertise in the field of Accounting. Among specialists and experts in other fields however, there is a trend emerging for which these experts are expected to be specialists not only in their own field, but also in that of the client.
The Advertising industry for example, is currently seeing a return to the full-service, cross-functional agency approach. Here agencies are expected to work in a truly collaborative manner with the client, as an extension of the client’s team, and to add value as an expert with a deep understanding of the client’s business, their competition, their industry and market conditions.
Expect to see Accountants increasingly invited to take a seat at this client table, sitting alongside fellow experts from various disciplines, playing an advisory role in helping to guide the client business to greater future success.
#2 A World of Opportunity
Doing business globally may not seem like a new idea, but the ease with which the smallest of businesses can now market and distribute to global customers makes it a whole new opportunity to many.
Take an app such as WeChat for example: you may not even have heard of it, but it’s changing your internet and the way in which commerce is conducted. But why is this Chinese mobile app important to you? For two reasons, not the least of which is that WeChat demonstrates how the mobile commerce world could be if everything worked in synchronicity, and is essentially a blueprint for where western giants Facebook and Google dream to take us in future.
More importantly, WeChat is a platform which enables your Mum & Dad clients to quickly and easily commence sales and distribution into China – are you ready to support and advise them as they navigate this new world of opportunity?
The good news is you don’t need to be well versed in current foreign taxation laws and accounting practices, but you should at least be ready to steer your clients in the right direction when they come to you for help. This may be through established relationships with partner firms, or simply using your own network of industry colleagues who can support in an advisory capacity.
Being prepared to support your clients through an international expansion will help you to retain and grow your existing base, while setting you up to better service new clients you may otherwise have thrown back.
#3 Rise of the Virtual Team
Over the past couple of years, it’s been quite exciting to see the number of shared work facilities rise so dramatically. And I’m not talking about the old “serviced office” in which you share common facilities such as printers and meeting rooms to create the illusion of corporate grandeur while operating on a shoestring. No, I’m talking about dynamic and creative spaces where talented and entrepreneurial young visionaries can go to bounce their ideas off one another in a cooperative environment – fueling the creative fire for new and disruptive startups across industries.
But what’s this got to do with us in Accounting? Well firstly, it’s a metaphor for the change occurring in the way business is done and work is achieved today. Gone is the reliance we once had on fax machines, filing cabinets, physical meeting rooms… even paper. Today’s work is largely done digitally – and the bits we don’t do digitally, you could probably argue could be done digitally. Now, I’m not suggesting you send your staff home and have them work remotely – there is a lot to be said for an engaging office environment (refer again to the startup labs described above) – but consider how staff can be freed from some of their analogue shackles in order to work more collaboratively amongst themselves, and with your clients.
Additionally, when you consider that 50 years ago, the life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company was around 75 years, while today that life expectancy is just 15 years, and dropping (as pointed out by Steven Denning in Forbes some years ago) – my question is, why aren’t more accounting firms offering their services to the inhabitants of these incubator labs to help them build what may be tomorrow’s big business?
#4 Listen Up, Listen In
More and more businesses across more and more industry categories are ‘tuning in’ socially, listening to what their customers, competition and the market in general is saying, not just about them and their brands, but about the industry they’re in, the problems they’re trying to solve, and more importantly, the problems they’re not.
Social listening uses data from various social tools, which when melded together can deliver some pretty powerful insights into the conversations happening in and around your industry.
While the benefits to companies in other industries are both obvious and significant, what’s the benefit to Accounting? Well like many such tools, what you get out is dependent upon what you put in and as such, social listening is not something we’re commonly seeing at the smaller end of town – yet. It is however, alive and well at the big end.
Imagine knowing what your competition is up to, knowing what people are saying about them, and about your business. Get a view on how to service customers before they realise themselves what they need, or identifying the next trend before it trends.
Social listening data is providing insight to industries all over the world, why not ours too?
#5 Plan to plan
The number of mergers and acquisitions within our industry continues to astound – and it seems to be ever increasing. So what does that mean for you?
Well, for the most part, it really just means business as usual. Let’s face it, M&A is a deep seeded part of the Accounting industry and that’s not going to change anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean you should be complacent, despite this being, as we’ve already established, business as usual. It surprises me how many colleagues I come across within this industry who don’t yet have a solid plan in place for the future.
Regardless of where you’re at with your career or business, it pays dividends to be ahead of the curve in terms of planning for the future or other contingencies. They say the best laid plans of mice and men / oft go awry, when in fact, the best laid plans oft become self fulfilling prophecies, simply in that you’ve identified your desired future objective and begin steering yourself toward it.
Whether you’re planning for an acquisition, a sale, an exit or succession – have a plan. In fact, have two plans – in case the mouse’s best laid plans hit the fan. Plan to plan in 2017 and be one very important step closer to your end game.
Magnus Yoshikawa | Jadeja Partners | www.jadejapartners.com