As an accounting professional working with small businesses, you have the opportunity to become a professional chameleon, offering counsel far beyond your traditional remit.
Working with our partners - such as PKF, CIMA and the Association of UK Accountants - we hear this on an almost daily basis. Many, it seems, are already aware of the need to broaden their skill-set to serve particular clients.
As the number of high-growth SMEs reaches its highest level since the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s, this market presents an incredibly lucrative opportunity.
Becoming an indispensable source of business knowledge to your SME clients will not only benefit their business prospects, but it also secures their custom in an increasingly competitive advisory landscape.
With this in mind, Capitalise has pulled together some tips on how you can go the extra mile for your SME clients:
1. Cut through the red tape
Develop a working knowledge of the red tape challenges associated with SME expansion activity. Build up useful resources on these topics that you can share with clients. These may include areas as varied as employment, data or environmental legislation.
While this is traditionally the preoccupation of the SME’s legal counsel, familiarising yourself with these potential pitfalls will allow you to advise confidently, while also providing an extended service to your client.
2. Find finance
As SMEs face sustained pressure on their financial wellbeing, being able to advise in the area of funding is an incredibly valuable asset. While banks are the obvious, traditional option, the recent boom in alternative finance can not be ignored. In 2015, the alternative finance industry was worth an estimated £2.2bn to UK SMEs.
The end goal is to facilitate introductions between funding sources and SMEs. While this can be done the old fashioned way, sites like Capitalise.com are increasingly empowering accountants through technology.
3. Become the introducer
If good business is built on solid relationships, then being able to forge these relationships will always be viewed as a valuable client service. Think more laterally about what kind of relationship would be of use to a SME, whether this be with other clients or external professionals.
Your aim is to create a mutually supportive and empathetic environment in which beneficial insight can be shared.
4. Hone your speciality
If providing all of these additional services to clients feels a little out of your comfort zone, then consider providing only a handful but ensure quality in each. Clients will always value well-informed, strategic advice, it takes time to build up.
Assess which areas of ‘value-add’ you should be investing time in, and which can be outsourced to the likes of finance comparison platforms. This will be to the benefit of not only your clients, but also to your firm’s reputation within the SME community.
As long as economic uncertainty continues to drive competition within the SME arena, the goalposts for accountancy professionals will continue to shift. A SME now sees squeezing as much value and counsel as possible from their accountant as a necessity.
While this will take some time to adjust to, it’s worth bearing in mind that - in this fast paced SME landscape - the small businesses of today are likely to be some of your largest clients in the near future.
Becoming a professional chameleon may be challenging, but it is guaranteed to pay dividends in the long term.