The changing needs of your local accountancy business

What does the future of a local accountancy business hold?

future start button for accountancy businesses

The past 18 months has highlighted the importance of a good accountancy business to many business owning clients. The impact of Covid19 restrictions on not just trading marketplace, but also the staffing and supply chain has been huge. 

Add in legal paperwork and brand new online portals for business grants, loans, and furlough support payments, and the picture became properly confusing for even seasoned business owners.

According to the recent ACCA report, the changes have led to some additional requirements for accountancy practices that have a growth mindset beyond the pandemic. Many of the adjustments will have long standing implications, and the benchmark for communication and expertise has been raised substantially.

Using accountancy to prepare your clients' businesses for the future

The most obvious and significant adjustment is the switch that has been flicked in business owners’ minds from viewing accountancy as a largely history-focused discipline, where the technicians simply reported on past performance and resulting tax and other liabilities. Now, there is an ever-growing number of business owners who want to be able to predict and prepare for the future with greater clarity. 

Whilst this was always available to the consumer, the reality was that the uptake was far lower than it really should have been. Where accountancy services had been a grudge purchase for many business owners who realised the requirement to report legally, and the benefit of mitigating tax liabilities professionally, most were not forward thinking enough to take full advantage of projections and trend analysis.

How will this shift affect accounting businesses moving forward?

changing nature of accountancy businesses - adaption

Where accounting has been a sector that has historically relied largely on word-of-mouth recommendation, there is a great opportunity for the more dynamic practices to showcase their thought leadership. 

This means a greater requirement for pro-active marketing, influential messaging, and direct communication with both new prospects and existing clients. Whilst the assumption is largely that everyone knows what an accountant can offer, the reality is markedly different. 

In fact, most SME business owners have a very limited understanding or experience on the range of services that accounting businesses can offer. This represents a huge change to diversify customers’ buying habits, and drive up the level of annual business from clients.

Increase awareness of your full breadth of services

This is true for payroll services, tax planning, management account preparation and interpretation, business valuation work and a whole load more beyond.

In particular, the awareness of current and near-future financial position has become a critical factor for many companies that have by now burned through their rainy day funds and cashflow buffer pots. 

Right now, this awareness and the confidence to make the right decisions is more critical than ever and provides the perfect platform to adapt the service mix and customer relationship dynamic with many current and future clients. The demand for clarity and confidence is massive, but the understanding of which services that would enable that is much smaller!

This second ACCA report expands on the issue and shows that the accounting firms that recognise, and respond to this opportunity may well be the market leaders of the future. This is because those that grab the bull by the horns will market and operate to a different model than they have before, and the growth potential is there for the taking.

There is, however, one major stumbling block. Most accountants are by their nature cautious, precise, and iterative in their learning styles. They tend to be more reflective learners, and more pragmatist than activist. Normally this isn’t too much of a problem, but when a market is moving fast, and the opportunity is today rather than tomorrow the speed of response matters.

Take too long considering the potential (benefits and risks) and you may well find the tide has gone out before you launch your ships. 

As accountants who are responding to a shift in demand and opportunity, you will need to engage with the potential for different working patterns, processes, and skills. 

Once you have identified what the customers now want and need, you can alter your marketing and sales communication to reflect that message confidently… meaning you look different to the competition, and leave the dinosaurs behind!

To help you act more swiftly, and to more readily identify what needs to be done, I have summarised the 4 main angles from the report, and added some thoughts of my own here:

1. Relevance

Customers now want to be up to date, not just on current and near future financials, but also on performance across the business. This means helping them access other data sources than a standard Profit & Loss or balance sheet. Take the focus away from pure compliance and control, and step into the world of insights that empower clients and enable competitive advantage.

2. Data & Technology

Customers now want to be up to date, not just on current and near future financials, but also on performance across the business. This means helping them access other data sources than a standard Profit & Loss or balance sheet. Take the focus away from pure compliance and control, and step into the world of insights that empower clients and enable competitive advantage.

3. Skills

Future-based accounting is different to managing history. Uprating your team’s skillset to include the more forward looking aspects would be a shrewd move now. Documenting those skills, and the expertise of your colleagues on website, social media, and within client testimony will all help to create the all-important gap between yourself and the competition.

Mastering some of the specialist software also provides the opportunity to become involved in set-up consultancy and training which is a nice bolt on to the standard accounting remit.

4. Innovation

“The role finance now needs to play is as a super-connector and trusted advisor across the organisation. Maintaining this relevance is perhaps the greatest challenge”. This quote from the ACCA report shows an interesting thought at work.

Finance is not just a department, but a business enabler. Where do you need to be seen, recognised and valued within your client’s organisation?

The demand for internal change


Millennials and Generation Z are well known for their desire to progress, consume information, and appreciate the advances in technology.

Your team now includes a demand from such employees for development opportunities and career progression. Identifying and fostering this talent within your business is critical, and to achieve the technological learning it will certainly help to have this generation well engaged!

The impatience of these generations to see progress happening quickly and effectively matches the current shift in customer needs. Why not connect in with these colleagues and see where they can contribute more?

This report about the new generation of accountants makes for interesting reading on the subject and highlights the potential of maximising this workforce! When you consider that less than half of the community believe that business leaders have integrity, it may be an uphill challenge unless you adapt and make a real effort to engage this group. One way of doing so is to have an ‘intrepreneurship’ approach whereby you have a sandbox for Generation Z to trial new ideas in a way where risk is mitigated.

As Generation Z are very purpose-driven, reviewing and updating the company mission statement wouldn’t be a bad idea either. These teammates want to know that what they are doing really matters, and that it has a meaningful value beyond your own company profit.


As you can see, the world is moving on, and the accountancy sector must move with it! If you enjoyed this article and would like to discuss the direction of your accountancy business moving forward with a business coach, you can book a complimentary meeting with me here

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