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Critical Skills Accounting Advisors Need to Support SMEs in 2017


Critical Skills Accounting Advisors Need to Support SMEs in 2017

By , June 6, 2016

As the traditional (old-fashioned) world of compliance-focused accounting (where many of us started our professional accounting careers in business services departments of large firms)  faces several major disruptive changes, it is imperative for accounting advisors to think about their professional development and identify key skills areas to develop. The introduction of new software and digital tools XERO, receiptbank and the like, and the introduction of international offshoring or outsourcing of major compliance tasks sees this aspect of most accounting practices becoming a basic service that needs to be delivered at a cost effective price to be competitive.

If compliance work is the only service accounting advisors can are offering to clients then I suggest they won’t be around for very long at all –  most need to seriously consider the skills that accounting advisors will need to survive and in fact thrive to 2020.  Most clients business owners especially understand that this compliance function adds very little value in fact and so are looking for their trusted advisers (a position which most public accountants have held for many many years) to provide more –  more in terms of advice according to the 2015 survey of business owners published by the SME association of Australia –  most are looking for advice and support on 3 key objectives: cashflow/funding, business growth and succession/exit.

Several accounting firms we are working with have successfully transitioned already to include some element of strategic advisory services, and whilst the compliance work is still done and done well – it is not the major focus! Regular meetings with clients have seen many accountants become more of a mentor or coach and in this way they are providing valuable  advice to business owners in terms of their three key outcomes listed above.

To this end, some of the more technical accounting professionals must also build up the ‘soft skill’ set in order to make the transition to ‘strategic accounting advisor’. Several of our regular industry conferences have shifted content focus over the past few months to include less technical and compliance training in favour of sessions on how to effectively collaborate with business owners and address their key concerns.

Here are a few resources for those of you interested in transitioning from compliance professional to strategic accounting advisor:

  •  CPA Australia – online and in-person calendar of training events and continuing education courses
  • The Global Knowledge Gateway™ was launched in 2014 and includes nearly 200 original articles and brings together thousands of staff-selected resources and news items from over 450 sources, including many IFAC member organizations and firms.
  • Chartered Accountants Australia – has a leadership series to help accounting advisors sharpen their non-financial business skills
Craig West

Craig West

Managing Director | Succession Plus

Craig West is a strategic accountant who has over 20 years’ experience advising business owners. His background as a CPA in public practice, provided invaluable experience in the key issues of concern to business owners. Following 6 years of study to gain two masters degrees, Craig focused on Capital Gains Tax (CGT) for business sales advising on strategic management of tax issues. This experience formed a very strong view that business owners (and often their advisers) were unprepared and unaware of the steps required to prepare a business for exit.

Craig now acts as a strategic mentor for mid-market business owners and has written four critically acclaimed books on employee incentives, succession planning, asset protection and exit strategies. Craig has conducted numerous seminars and keynote presentations throughout Australia & internationally, including adviser education programs for the Institute of Chartered Accountants and CPA Australia.