As CEO and founder of Orange County-based bookkeeping firm, Accrew, Anna Ready is no stranger to doing what it takes to provide innovative solutions and meaningful advisory to a diverse range of clients. A self-proclaimed “technology enthusiast and accounting geek,” Anna is a QuickBooks Online aficionado and is the first in line when new tech hits the ecosystem, which is what made her our top choice to kick off our first ever episode of chats with chata, our new “unwebinar” series. We sat down with Anna to talk about what it looks like to migrate your financial practice towards advisory and how to go about developing a new deliverable that will have clients raving about their experience with your services.
“Accountants and bookkeepers are basically wizards. We ‘magically’ turn chaos into order: we figure it all out and we get it all together. But no one sees that. We’re doing everything behind the scenes.” What the client does see, Anna tells us, is the deliverable. “When we say ‘deliverable’ what I’m talking about is the financial reports we give to clients on a regular basis,” she says. “It’s often delivering static reports based on a certain time period that don’t provide any real insight into where those numbers came from.” But, as the nature of business changes and the needs of business owners develop new complexity, that kind of deliverable doesn’t seem to be cutting it.
Accountants and bookkeepers are basically wizards. We ‘magically’ turn chaos into order: we figure it all out and we get it all together. But no one sees that.
“If we exist to serve our clients, then we need to understand what they’re looking for so that we can evaluate the deliverable we’re giving them,” Anna says. “Clients are looking for us to help them understand their business, understand how they’re doing, and then use that information to help them make good choices,” Anna continues. “When you start to ask your clients, ‘What do you actually care about?’ you might find that you’re not currently tracking their data in a way that will give them the answers they’re looking for.” This is the point at which Anna believes there is a major opportunity for financial professionals to add value to their services. “You can start having higher-value conversations where you say: ‘I would love to give you that information. Let’s implement some new tools so we can get you the data that gives you that information.’ Oh,” she adds, “and we’re going to charge you more for that.”
“The expectation from clients is that we will give them that distilled-down version of the data that answers, ‘What do I really need to know about by business?’” she observes. “[Clients] need that information to be presented in a way that they can comprehend in 2019,” she says. “We can’t process large amounts of information [all at one time]. When was the last time someone sent you more than two paragraphs in an email? And how did you feel about that?”
To meet these changing expectations, Anna sees huge potential in emerging app technology. “We need to be looking at cloud-based tools (like chata.ai) that connect and automatically retrieve the data, giving clients access any time, otherwise this process of personalization and engagement very quickly becomes not scalable,” she says.
Automation changes our role from being the people who make reports to being the people who ensure that clients find meaning and value in their data.
“Automation changes our role from being the people who make reports to being the people who ensure that our clients’ data is accurate and then customizing how that data is displayed so that clients find meaning and value in it.” If clients are finding value in their numbers, they’ll find value in your services.
So, how do you implement something new and share it with your clients without losing traction on your to-do lists? Anna recommends keeping it simple to start. “Pick two or three apps or tools that you are interested in for providing a specific deliverable. Do some demos, then pick one to test out. Connect it to your own books and see if it gives you information that you care about. Test it out on a client you’ve got a really good relationship with. Say, ‘Would you be willing to pilot this with us? To be our beta testers? We’d like to create a custom solution for you to display the numbers you care about.'” Anna continues, “Then, schedule a couple of check-ins to see if they’re finding value in it.” That conversation alone can transform the way your clients see your services. It opens the door for them to make their needs known and to voice their aspirations and struggles.
Anna’s final words of wisdom:
“If you can display a deep empathy for your clients – a deep caring about what’s important to them and whether or not they’re successful in their business – and you show up with how you can help with those goals… that wins you clients for life.”
Find more of Anna’s insights and get in touch with her on Twitter @accrew_io
chats with chata is an ongoing “unwebinar” series featuring financial professionals and business owners who are disrupting the status quo in the accounting or entrepreneurial landscape and adapting to a new era of data-centered growth strategy.