In this article we will explore the relevance of location when picking and accountant, bookkeeper or business adviser. Firstly, exploring the good old days and how advisers were chosen and the impact of technological advancements. Then, unsurprisingly, we will look at the effect Covid-19 has had to speed up the changes that were already in motion. Consequently, the current pro’s and cons of an online business relationship will be reviewed. To conclude, some predictions for what the future will look like regarding the relevance of location.

THE NOT SO OLD SCHOOL

The old school had two key barriers maintaining the relevance of location of your adviser, the transfer of data and in person meetings.

Exchanging “Sage” backups via email or in person would be the best method of keeping records successfully. This meant the sender of the backup was unable to make any alterations until they received it back. Should the information be inaccurate the receiver would not be able to do the work required until this was rectified and new back up was sent. In the not too distant past this progressed for some businesses via cloud accounting  making the exchange of backups obsolete. This was the first real change to the notion that location was an important factor when determining your adviser.

Typically, SME’s (Small and medium-sized enterprises) would choose their adviser based on proximity to their business picking the best option out of this smaller segment. With their adviser only being round the corner, meeting to review numbers was in theory easy. Conversely, bigger companies would choose a top 50 firm and they would have “in person” meetings arranged on a regular basis. In these a senior accountant would travel into the business provide support, something which was particularly important prior to cloud accounting. This meant business of all sizes were losing out. SME’s were not always able to pick the best option due to a reduced pool to select from. Conversely larger corporations are paying large charge out rates for in person visits.

Why is it still like this?

Simply, put it always has been.

Changing things that are not perceived to be broken would cost firms money, even if it did improve the clients’ experience and reduce their costs. As with many old institutions they are slow to change and those at the top believe strongly in the “old school”. In addition, some SME’s have not swapped to a cloud accounting platform, as it was not always offered to them by their accountant. This stems from the reasons outlined above. Historically video calls were reserved from cross continental or country interactions and were perceived as inferior to in person interactions.

Neither cloud accounting or video calling were considered pressing changes in the industry and location remained relevant to decisions despite not needing to be. Serving only advisers not the clients!

ENTER COVID-19

Having seldom used Zoom pre-Covid, it seems to be the place most social and business interactions have migrated too. The use of tools like this is not a new phenomenon but the scale and speed of adoption is impressive. Covid provided the perfect worldwide experiment, can working remote communication be effective internally and externally?

Internally has arguably been more of struggle due to video calling not being fully able to replace office chit chat. Using technologies like Slack, Google Hangout or Whatsapping colleagues has become increasingly common to combat these difficulties.Externally relationships have still been proven to flourish and, in many cases, improve with the added efficiency of screen sharing.  Face to face interactions have overnight changed to “Zoom” meetings almost seamlessly and without need for travel. Providing a solid proof of concept that video calling is an effective method of communication. Not only to maintain relationships but to build new ones.

Video calling allows for more frequent high-level communications with less time, effort and money on facilitating them. A win for everyone involved.

ONLINE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR ADVISER

Pro

-All tasks can be discussed, assessed and completed virtually

-More frequent contact with your adviser

-Saves you money by not having to pay charge out fee’s

-Saves on travel time meaning were working more on your business

-Opens the pool of advisers to choose from to the whole country

Cons

-Nothing can replace human to human interaction fully

THE FUTURE

With technology and real-time cloud accounting apps you can reach your bookkeeping records from anywhere, provided you have an internet connection. No longer having any need for exchanging backups or anything quite so antiquated. Migration from another software to cloud platforms such as Xero is seamless and training can be accessed remotely. This eliminates the first barrier to working remotely and has been around for a while even if relatively underutilised.

The final issue was face to face meetings.  Covid has demonstrated this is another problem that already solved but once again underutilised. With Zoom, Google Hangout, Microsoft Teams and Skype being the go-to maintain proper meetings. These have been effectively used to such an extent that many of the world biggest corporations are drastically changing their working from home policy.

With both barriers efficiently removed your choice of adviser is no longer restricted by location. You can therefore select an adviser based on the value they bring to you and your business and the relationship you can build with them. It is important to note that all this does not mean once it is safe to do so that in person meetings are a thing of the past. It simply means that they are no longer required to the same level and as a result should not impact your choice of adviser.

#cloudaccounting #videocalling #digitalaccounting