Mark Lee explains how you can best prepare your practice to deal with the challenges that lie ahead
Normal vision is often described as 20/20. Next year is 2020, so what is it normal to be planning for 2020? Those accountants who focus on compliance work (as do many members of ICPA) produce the same accounts and tax returns. But how you do this will vary.
An increasing number of accountants have started evolving their practices so that they are less reliant on low value compliance services. This is a trend I expect to continue over the next few years, although compliance work will not disappear.
Much compliance work will get simpler and client needs will evolve. So perhaps the focus of your practice will evolve gently as your clients’ needs change – and as you get asked for different things by prospective new clients.
Migrating to the cloud
If you have yet to migrate your own firm’s finances into the cloud, you may conclude the time has finally come to do this. When your practice is in the cloud you will be better placed to appreciate the consequential business benefits, time saving opportunities and related advantages to your clients of using cloud accounting. It’s not just about the platform itself.
Making Tax Digital
MTD for VAT will be well in place by the end of the year, but if you or your clients are relying on bridging software you may find this is inadequate as a long-term solution across the board. By 2020, I’d expect you will be closer to deciding on your preferred MTD compliant software solution for clients to maintain digital records.
Will your compliance work be more of a springboard, allowing you to focus more on advisory work? Perhaps you will be positioning your firm to pro-actively offer more strategic business advice for those clients who are willing to pay good fees for such an ongoing service.
Developing key business skills
This is one of my pet topics. It follows on from the above point. You may need to build and develop expertise in a wider range of business and advisory skills.
The sooner you do this the better prepared you will be to grow the advisory side of your practice proactively. And the better prepared you will be to pitch such services and to win clients who will value and pay for such advice, guidance and support.
Strategic planning for the practice
Many smaller accountancy practices have reached a stage where they are relatively comfortable. The practice has reached a reasonable size and there is no great ambition to continue growing.
The challenge facing accountants in the lead up to 2020 is that the market place is evolving. Many less-well-prepared smaller firms will start to lose clients to more marketing savvy competitors. I doubt it will be as ‘easy’ (if it ever was) to win new business to replace the lost fees.
20/20 for 2020
What will be normal next year? Life won’t change overnight. But it will change. Will you look to sell up and retire in 2020, will you be satisfied simply surviving or will you start to do things differently?
If you want to have 20/20 vision for 2020, you will need to do more than simply hope things will be ok. Hope is not a strategy. Get some support and encouragement. Take action or take advice.
• Mark Lee FCA mentors sole practitioners who want to evolve their practices. You can get free guides and a weekly ‘Magic of Success’ email through his website: bookmarklee.co.uk.
ICPA members can also book a free initial call via this link: www.calendly.com/ bookmarklee/icpahotline
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