At XeroCon London 2016, entrepreneur Dale Murray CBE told her audience: “Good accounting advice starts with understanding our language.”
This got me to thinking about when I ran my own business and would meet my accountant. I remember my eyes glazing over in these meetings. Not because I didn’t respect him; I just didn’t understand half the things he said.
And because of this my accountant felt expensive and I struggled to see value. I now realise this is because he didn’t engage with me on my own terms. As Xero and its ecosystem bring increasing automation to accounting, it’s only going to become harder for accountants to demonstrate value. And so I could echo Dale’s call-to-arms by saying those accountants who want to stay relevant should avoid using finance jargon with their clients. And I’d add that accountants should also have a laserfocus on their clients’ goals.
What Do Clients Care About?
Bottom line: business owners care about identifying and solving problems, not tools and detailed techniques. Most business owners do not care about what exactly an accountant does or how they do it. They care about the outcome. So when accountants work to surface and solve client problems in plain English, they become extremely successful at engaging with businesses.
This means that presenting a balance sheet is not going to grab a client’s attention. But asking about their hopes for the future will.