One of the great things about the Australian software industry is that it is very competitive. This keeps software costs low and ensures your clients get a great number of choices to fit to their specific business model. One of the costs of that competitive situation is that there is a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt in the industry. More recently, with online and social media involved, it can get as ugly, personal and dirty as politics.
What I’m writing about here is how to avoid the industry FUD and MUD being slung around, and instead be the trusted advisors you were trained to be – and choose the right solution for your client needs purely out of your duty of care for them.
The client comes first. Always.
So often I have run into industry participants who have forgotten this basic quality of a trusted advisor. I read with disgust a post on the ICAA LinkedIn group where a person asked what software he should buy. The only detail he provided was that it should have multi-currency. People (should I say the minions serving software companies) recommended their favourites without a clue as to what this persons business model was about. If we want an authentic relationship with our clients then we must ensure their interests are served first which means recommending nothing unless you have asked the right questions. It also means buying the accounting product that’s right for your client’s business, and not your own. I call this selfish-service not service.
Some might say that practice efficiency is the only thing to worry about, the bottom line of your cost of sale. I disagree completely with this assertion. Businesses that do this tend to go broke over time because they aren’t operating for the customer, but for themselves. This inauthenticity manifests itself through the culture, through customer churn and in destroying trust.
Your charge model should be elastic with respect to client complexity. The more complex a business model then it’s more likely the supporting systems won’t work as cleanly with your practice systems. An example might be dealing with a client which has multi-channel sales across resellers, e-commerce stores and wholesaling to retail outlets. That type of client should be on Saasu rather than Banklink. Likewise a client who doesn’t want their data online and only has some basic expenses each month probably could just use BankLink rather than Saasu. The right product for the right client is the right approach. This is what adds value to your practice long term.
Some advisors have an approach to advise based on their comfort zone or out of an evangelised view. Essentially what you have done here is monetised your customer’s trust upfront and dramatically increased the risk and cost of maintaining it now that they aren’t in the right system for their business. A few weeks into the change they call you and aren’t happy because the Tier 3 accounting solution as it is a little light weight. Your internal processing costs might have gone down a little but their costs have gone up a lot, and your brand (reputation) as an advisor is now damaged. You get churn and thus your real position isn’t a good as your first thought.
I recommend you don’t listen to any one software company, but instead be a researcher and an analyst. You and your industry nearly own the word “due diligence” so live that behaviour and don’t trust everything you read. Get real about it, the software industry sees and uses you as a free sales channel (an off-balance sheet sales team selling and evangelising their products) and they make you pay for the privilege of doing that! Make the decisions for your clients in a scientific way rather than an emotional one based on the hype and FUD the software companies have fed you. Do this because you are small business owner, an entrepreneur – just like the people you want to help be successful, for their families and in their lives.
Rhys Taylor | Chief Marketing Officer | Saasu