For SMMEs, timely accounting can mean the difference between success and failure. Financial information is a perishable commodity with a definite shelf life: more than a couple of weeks and it’s essentially worthless as an aid to decision-making.

Yet few can actually get reports from their accountants within that crucial window. The norm is a four-week wait for accounts presented in a form that’s very hard to understand.

Instead of vital information they can use to guide their decisions, business owners get dead, dry-as-dust paper that’s fit for little but filing.

The bad news is that while as recently as five years ago our clients didn’t have a choice; now they do. Real-time online accounting solutions are easy to find, easy to use, of excellent quality and very, very affordable. Tech-savvy business owners are already making the switch and it won’t be long before the masses follow suit.

The most common response has been to treat this new development as a threat.

‘I asked my accountants a year ago to recommend a real-time software solution, and they’ve done nothing but stall,’ confided one successful business owner to me recently. ‘I know exactly why they’re doing it, too: it would cut their billing to my company by 75%.’

But this is lazy short-term thinking: ‘My accountants have never given me the insight and expert advice I really need, which is why I can replace them with a software package,’ continued this seasoned businesswoman. ‘But I’d happily pay for strategic service. My company is too small for us to hire our own full-time finance director, so that’s the role I would like my accountants to play.’

Opportunity, not threat

In other words, like many threats, this one is masking an opportunity. As our clients begin to capture their own data and generate their own reports, what they need from us is going to change.

They will want fewer reports, and more analysis; less paper, and more time and advice.

If we are willing to grasp the opportunity, it means our work can only get more meaningful and more rewarding. We’ve talked for decades about trusted advisors; it’s time to truly step up to the role.

Author: Peter Frampton (CA)Aus is co-founder and CEO of Color Accounting International