Gone are the days when accountants hunched over their worn but trusty ten key, cranking out figures and calculations from dawn till dusk. Thankfully, cloud accounting software has automated much of the routine processes that consumed an accounting professional’s time. Now, other accountants and I can spend time advising and offering value-added services whenever it’s appropriate.
Despite the tremendous advances in technology, particularly within the accounting industry, many companies struggle to find an accountant who has embraced technology in a way that allows for better operations, improved service delivery, and client satisfaction.
Why tech-savvy accountants are ideal
In a world where we use one device to call friends, pay for groceries, and unlock our car, being adept and savvy regarding technology is no longer an option; it’s an expectation. As KPMG noted in their 2017 “Meet The Millennials” survey report, millennials — the first “always connected” generation — now comprise approximately 35 percent of the modern workforce. If you’re within this group, you likely expect tech-savviness from your business partners, including your accountant.
The deluge of tax updates and changes during the 2020 pandemic meant that our team worked non-stop to help our clients determine and navigate the best path forward amid a chaotic, dynamic environment. However, in the early years of our firm, we invested substantial resources into ensuring that our team could work securely and efficiently from home or the office. This investment provided us with a tremendous return throughout 2020 as our team collaborated with clients and each other to get work done accurately and punctually. When accounting firms embrace technology, they can serve their clients well and successfully weather unpleasant surprises like a pandemic.
When accountants use accounting automation to automate the more routine accounting tasks, they free up time to provide trusted business advice and financial insight to you as their client. By automating the more transactional, monotonous calculations and data entry tasks, your accounting professional can spend more time advising you on business strategies and growth opportunities.
How to find a tech-savvy accountant
Partnering with an accountant can save you time that you’d typically spend doing your accounting. But partnering with a modern accounting professional who understands and implements technology wisely can lead to business growth and long-term success. Because they’ve freed up their time with efficient automation, a modern accountant is best suited for supporting growth-minded business owners.
While most accountants will seem nice and talk about the importance of technology during your interviews with them, it’s crucial that you look past friendliness to determine whether or not they will help you after you agree to work with them. Here are some suggestions to help you select the right accountant, so you pick a business asset, not a liability.
Look at their website.
Before you interview potential accountants, start in Google and look for the top-ranking accounting firm websites. Often, these firms have invested in digital marketing because they realize the importance of SEO in attracting new clients. Once you’re on these websites, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this accountant have good branding? As any tech-savvy consumer knows, it’s not enough to just have a website anymore. Instead, there has to be good website design, a compelling layout, and easy navigation. But another important part of a website is branding. As you scan these websites, ask yourself which firm has the better branding and design. Often, this accounting firm is the most technologically adept and focused on being successful in the future.
- Is their website secure? Most people know to look for the “https” on a website before visiting it. Some browsers, like Safari and Chrome, even block unsecured websites by default. Still, many accounting firms who tout the benefits of using technology well have unsecured websites. This can indicate a lack of internal cohesion within that firm and a non-authentic focus on technological innovation.
Ask the right questions.
As they say, you’ve got to ask the right questions to get the right answers. After you’ve found some good accounting firm websites, it’s time to ask them about their commitment to technology, in addition to the regular questions within this kind of interview.
For starters, ask the accountant how they will share and request files from you, especially during tax time. Accountants often email tax documents and other sensitive information to clients, but this leaves your documents vulnerable since email is unencrypted. A better option would be for that accountant to use a centralized portal to request and share information with our clients. At my accounting firm, for example, we use ShareFile to send and receive client documents. There are numerous other security questions that you can ask an accountant, but this is a good place to start.
Step 3: Look for red flags
As I mentioned before, even bad accountants can seem nice and charming in an interview. As a business owner myself, I understand the damage that a bad hire can do to your business regarding wasted resources and money. It’s not just laziness either: some accountants will knowingly engage in unethical behavior, like stealing $109,000 from a church or stealing $26,000 from clients.
This is why it’s critical to consider an accountant’s approach to taxes and accounting before working with them. Are they willing to resort to fraud, or are they dedicated to holding themselves to a higher standard, both for their firm’s success and their clients? Ask about their past results for clients and see what strategies they have implemented for past clients. Of course, a good accountant will remain discreet and discuss past results in anonymous terms, but this discussion can help you decide on their ethics and accounting approach.
A tech-enabled accountant is better for you.
As an accountant myself, I understand the uncomfortableness of my peers within the accounting profession. But, I also appreciate the numerous benefits for accountants and clients alike that come from embracing technology. My team and I use technology to support our advisory accounting services at my outsourced accounting firm, offering our clients the service they expect and deserve from our accountants. We’re able to provide superior service because we’ve embraced, not feared, technology and its advantages for ourselves and our clients. I hope this article has helped you understand how you can find an accountant that understands technology and can support your company’s growth.