Offering more services as an accountant

I’m often surprised that accountants don’t offer a wider range of services. Generally, most firms offer help for businesses or individuals to make sure that they’re compliant with laws about tax returns, and help with their bookkeeping. I think there are lots more services that accountancy firms can offer.

Why these business ideas for accountants are important

Most businesses don’t really understand the numbers that they get from their accountants and they only look at them once a year. This makes me crazy when I see clients doing it. The annual return information from accountants is usually out of date as it’s done for the tax deadlines. Wouldn’t it be nice if your firm offered a simple version of what the big firms offer and help with management accounting?

I particularly like this idea because you can offer it as an upsell to your existing customer base. It can be offered as a subscription service, creating recurring revenue and add very nicely to your profits.

How it works

Many accountants see management accounting as a very full-on service, needing lots of resources to do the job properly. I’m not sure that this is true. For small and medium-sized businesses, most people just need their accounts to be up-to-date (which they can do themselves or through your existing bookkeeping service) and for somebody to give them a report once a quarter.

So I suggest that you build a templated report, then cut and paste the information from the client’s accounts into that report. You’d need to write it in plain English so that the business owner can understand it easily. It would likely take a couple of days’ work to build the report the first time, and then you could get a junior member of staff to fill it out for each company.

Have a think about the things that would be most useful for your average business owner to understand, what’s going to be really useful for their business.  Things like a graph showing the increase in sales matched with the increase in profits (or vice-versa), commentary on the increase or decrease in debtors might be worth pointing out.

You might want to have a paragraph at the end which gives an overall commentary on the financial health of the business, pointing out any warnings they might need to look at, such as liquidity or cash flow issues, or just congratulating them on doing well.

You can trial this on a dozen existing customers for free and see what the response is. Make sure that you tell people that this is a pilot and they’re getting a free beta version that would be chargeable later, so they don’t get used to it and then get annoyed when you ask them for money for it.

Then launch it as a paid service, put it on your website with a button they can press to subscribe and send out an email to all your existing customers. I think small businesses would welcome this once a quarter, and they might pay around £250 – £350 a year for the service.

Because you are using the template, and you’ve already got access to your customers’ accounts (especially if they’re using online software like Xero), it would not take long to produce each report. You wouldn’t need a partner to do this kind of work. If you get a hundred people to sign up, that’s a nice extra £25 – 35K per year to add to your billing, with very little additional resources.

How much does this cost to get going?

You don’t need new staff or special software, the template can be developed in-house, so there’s not really a cost to getting this going. At the very most, you’d need to set up an online payment or booking system to add into your existing invoicing procedure, the cost of which would depend on your existing setup.

Who is this good for?

This would be a lovely upsell for any accountancy firm, whether you’re a sole person practice or a 30-person firm. As well as the additional revenue, providing this service could be a good differentiator for your company, helping you to attract new customers.

What’s the trick to making this work?

I wonder if the reason why most accountancy firms don’t add in upsells is because they’re busy concentrating on the work that they have on hand. So the trick here is to treat it like a project and give it a champion – one person who is responsible for making it happen within the company. This person writes the template, does the pilots, and sets up the emails and the sign-up form on the website, and gets the credit when the new money comes into the company.

How much money would I make?

This is just an upsell, an additional product, rather than a whole business in itself. But that £25-35k (or more) is recurring income that you wouldn’t have had without this. And that probably represents the same income as about 20 new clients that you would have had to bring in. Launching this seems like a much easier way of increasing billing than having to bring in 20 new clients.

Let me know what you think

This is a sample of all the great ideas I’ve put together in my big library of business ideas, the New Business Ideas Collection – where I’ve got some other great ideas for accountants and other professional service companies.


Photo credit – Anssi Koskinen

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