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Your Virtual Team

This one is a touchy subject for some. So before you get angry and send me hate mail open your mind to the possibilities…..

In 2014 there were approximately 50,000 Australian office jobs sent to the Philippines alone. According to experts this number is set to double this year and continue growing each year. It can be a touchy subject with some people but it’s not going to go away. Clothing has been manufactured overseas for years and now it’s office jobs. When the labor costs are 1/5th to a 10th of what we pay in Western countries it is a compelling opportunity for businesses to consider. There is also an abundance of people who are educated and very keen to work.

Although many Asian countries are offering outsourcing resources, I am most familiar with the Philippines market. There are approximately 1.2M people currently hired (in the offshoring/outsourcing space) and it is growing at 20% pa. They cannot build the office facilities fast enough to house them all. To become a qualified CPA it takes 5 years after university and you can hire them for around $4 – $7 per hour. This is considered a good salary.

When I first visited on an outsourcing study tour the following line got me: “any job that is done over the phone or behind a computer we can do for a 1/5th to a 10th of the cost.” So basically any non-customer facing role can be done cheaper and often better.

The use of cloud technology is critical to making this happen in accounting firms. Instead of sending large data files backwards and forwards, the offshore Accountants are working on the same file you are. If Accountants locally are not adding value to the work they are doing then their days are numbered.

The Accounting firm of the future will have local team members who are customer facing and adding value. Everything else will be done somewhere else. This is happening right now.

Many Accountants I have spoken with reject this reality because they still want to hire ‘locally.’ Hiring local people is a very noble thing to do. I do it but I do it for customer facing roles mainly. Many Accountants are worried what will happen to the profession if they don’t hire local graduates and train them. This is a good concern to have. It’s also a real one. If you are going to shift your processing team offshore then how are you going to train local talent to ‘come through the ranks’? The entire training model might need to be turned on its head as well.

The challenge you have got is other firms are doing this and they are using the significant cost savings as an advantage and they are reducing their prices. With a (up to) 80% cost reduction on labor costs the ones that are using offshore teams can hire more people and give a better service. They can do more marketing, create more products and give a better experience to their clients.

The biggest challenge you will have with this strategy is ‘selling it’ to your existing team members. They will feel their jobs are threatened. If you take the view it is a business growth strategy and not a redundancy strategy then that will help a lot.

You don’t have to go in ‘boots ‘n all’ and create your own full-time team from day one. You could start by hiring contractors on the various contractor websites to do one-off special projects.

In the not too distant future here’s what your offshore team could look like:

  • Administration
  • Your internal finance team
  • Marketing team – all functions
  • Sales coordinators
  • Client Services assistants
  • Technology creation and support
  • Accounting processing team
  • Bookkeepers
  • Para-planners
  • Product & systems developers

If you are interested in this space then I strongly suggest you hop on a plane and go on a study tour (email me and I’ll send you details of reputable tour operators) so you can see it for yourself.  As the tour operator (Mike) said to me:

‘Many people come over here with their current business or product in mind. Then they see the machine in action. When they leave they have invented new businesses and new product ideas’.

The machine is full of gas and is waiting to be started.

Accountants creating products – 20 new ones!

When creating new products or services we recommend that you have 8 categories. We call it the Awesome 8! It’s what your clients are interested in – over and above compliance services.

Awesome 8

 

If you stay close to the numbers and follow the Awesome 8 then here are 20 new products / services you could create:

  1.  Revenue growth program
  2. Cash flow analysis, forecasting & monitoring program
  3. Profit improvement program
  4. Debt re-structuring program
  5. Receivables management service
  6. Inventory management service
  7. Bookkeeping (serviced from lower cost countries)
  8. Virtual Management Accounting
  9. Cloud conversions
  10. Sort out the numbers program
  11. Monitoring & Accountability program
  12. Webinar / Seminar / Workshops / events
  13. Planning sessions – face2face, group or remote
  14. Boxed product (DVD, etc.) for a niche market
  15. Books / Manuals / Podcasts / Video subscriptions
  16. Software or online learning – subscription based
  17. Challenges – 100 day / 6 week, etc.
  18. Leveraged training or consulting
  19. Group coaching
  20. Cashflow in a Crisis program

At the end of the day every client should be buying every product they need that helps them achieve their goals!

It’s a connected world

Right now I am sitting in a jungle camp site in Thailand (I kid you not) with 3G on my phone and 6Meg wireless running through the camp. Already this morning I have looked at my emails through Gmail, I checked out Facebook for 5 minutes, I checked my bank accounts, I accepted 11 new LinkedIN connection requests, I had a look on our online community to see of the client chatter and I looked at the daily report on the key metrics of my business.  About 10 minutes of total ‘checking what is going on in my world’ time.

The daily report is automatically generated through our CRM program (www.salesforce.com) and we customise the main report every quarter in line with our quarterly theme. I can see the critical results of what we are focusing on right now. Event numbers, campaign results, client numbers, revenue & profit etc.

With everything on the ‘cloud’ you truly can run a business from anywhere in the world. I can see what it happening as it happens and respond accordingly. I don’t have to wait for the next meeting to jump on something I can see as a trend right now. I don’t have to wait for a lengthy report to tell me what an automated report can tell me.

I have team members in Brisbane, Darwin, Manila, Delhi and Vancouver. I have clients who use our software in 8 countries. How could you manage that with old technology systems on a hard drive or server? Well you can but it is very expensive and very slow.

It’s business real time. It’s a connected world. It’s exciting. It’s now time for a coffee then Elephant rides and Tiger cuddling later in the day. Stay tuned.

Jungle

Product Development for Accountants

Accountants haven’t really needed to invent new products in the past. They did what the government told them to do and occasionally they did some special projects for clients – business advisory type projects. Everything was on a ‘do and charge’ basis.

That’s all changing. The profession is evolving into a technology driven, leveraged IP model where firms are looking at new ways to systemise and leverage their IP base. The objective is to look at what you know and then innovate new ways of delivering that. The delivery could be in a number of wide and varied formats such as:

  • Group coaching
  • Group training
  • Manual / Report
  • Video / DVD in a box
  • Webinar
  • Seminar
  • Training program
  • Software program
  • Online subscription

It is the same IP but packaged in different ways. The hardest part (judging by the 46 Accountants we had in workshop last week talking about this) is coming up with what you actually know. Once you document your IP base then it’s a case of packaging it up and marketing it to your target audience. So what do you know? What does your firm know how to do? Here is my list….

What we know

 

Be Proactive with new services

Most Accountants I meet believe that there are opportunities for additional business in their current client base. However, they don’t seem that active in discovering the opportunities nor promoting the services. I think it is a BIG dis-service to the client if you do not promote new ideas and new services.

We recommend that you ‘stay close to the numbers’ with your service offerings. That way you can leverage the delivery of the services to other team members. By all means offer high level consulting however typically that means that very experienced (read expensive) people need to deliver them.

One of the reasons Accountants do not offer additional services is because they are unsure what the client will say and they doubt if they have the knowledge base to deliver the solution.

You have to differentiate between coaching and consulting. Consulting is where the provider comes up with the answers, coaching is where the client is guided and the answers are coached out of the client.

Financial coaching is the way to go. We recommend that your service categories fall in 8 areas. We call it the Awesome 8! It’s what your clients are interested in – over and above compliance services.

Awesome 8

If you follow the Awesome 8 then here are a dozen new services you could create:

  1.  Revenue enhancement – product & service
  2. Cash flow analysis, forecasting & monitoring –product & service
  3. Profit improvement program – product & service
  4. Debt re-structuring
  5. Receivables management service
  6. Inventory management service
  7. Book keeping (serviced from lower cost countries)
  8. Virtual Management Accounting
  9. Cloud conversions
  10. Sort out the numbers program
  11. Planning session
  12. Monitoring & Accountability program

At the end of the day every client should be buying every product they need that helps them achieve their goals!

That should be your goal.