Squandered opportunity shame of the industry, says Spotlight Reporting.
Cloud analytics company Spotlight Reporting has launched a virtual CFO “starter service” to train accountants in high-end consulting services and overcome “fear and apathy” in the profession, said Spotlight Reporting CEO Richard Francis.
“Some accounting firms have got complacent and arrogant. The partners don’t feel like they need to do anything different,” Francis said. “After you’ve had many years doing tax returns there’s a fear of spending most of the day out of office with the clients and creating value.”
An accountant acting as a virtual CFO provided reporting and analysis to a client’s board and chief executives, as well as forecasting, strategy and other follow-on services.
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Virtual CFO services were typically higher-priced services which gave partners the opportunity to showcase their experience and expertise and attract good staff, Francis said. “The kind of work that retains good employees is around strategy, financial analysis, providing advice and helping people grow their business and create wealth.”
An explosion of business coaching in Australia has shown the amount of demand from small and medium business owners for advice in running their operations. Accountants were best placed to handle that demand, Francis said.
“We already have our hands on their books and we understand their business but we just don’t do anything about it in most instances. It’s the shame of our industry that we don’t take a far more proactive approach to working with clients to drive performance and profits,” Francis said.
Accounting firms interested in analysing financial performance to plot strategy found it difficult to update their practices.
“Only 20 percent of firms resource and promote value-added services seriously. We get a lot of subscribers, but I’m sure most providers would agree that getting firms to do non-compliance at depth is a tough ask,” Francis said.
One obstacle to take-up of virtual CFO services was unfamiliarity with technology and the boom in cloud software that could assist in running a business.
“Many firms are struggling with what to do with all this software floating around,” Francis said.
Francis, who has a boutique financial services consultancy, was launching Spotlight Reporting’s virtual CFO starter service next year to share his experiences and analytical techniques using Spotlight Reporting software.
The half-day or full-day consulting service covered marketing and sales advice, templates and agendas, and technical training on Spotlight Reporting.
The course was intended to help firms new to business analytics software as well as those that were struggling to sell related services. “We’re working to get the team engaged at depth but also how to work in the boardroom, how to resource value-add services and the kinds of clients they work for,” Francis said.
The course would emphasise recommendation of advice to clients, earning new revenue and improving hourly rate. “That is the low hanging fruit – setting up a dashboard, reporting, and francishing. That’s not a bridge too far for most acountants,” Francis said.