Running a small/medium enterprise is a very lonely activity and, in most cases, the SME operator does not have the benefit of having skilled experts working within the business on a full time basis.
Compare the situation of a small/medium enterprise operator with that of a CEO of a public company. In a public company environment the CEO normally has a group of key executives who directly report to him or her. These executives cover disciplines such as:
- Buying or Product Procurement - Production - Marketing - Sales - Legal - Accounting - Environmental - Product design
and other activities. The benefit that the CEO of a public company has is that he/she can have 'one on one' or group discussions with these executives virtually at any time during the day and, in some cases, at night as the situation requires.
Now think about the situation relating to your small/medium enterprise clients – don't they need the same type of information and advice that the CEO of a public company requires? I believe they do! Maybe the deals aren't as big as what occurs in a public company but a small/medium enterprise operator still has plenty of problems relative to:
- Buying/Sourcing of Products
and probably quite a few others.
Sometime ago, I was a Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary of a listed public company and the CEO that I worked for had a group of executives similar to what I have described. He would convene small meetings and larger meetings to discuss a range of issues throughout the day. The type of questions that were put to me as the senior accounting person included:
- Costing exercises - What would be the position if production was changed from one format to another?
- What was happening in international currencies (we were an exporter)?
- Feasibility studies for an expansion of the business operations
- Employment agreements for a new manager
- Participating in negotiations with the employees' union
- Undertaking due diligence on a potential new customer
- Supervising the documentation department for the preparation of export documents
- Liaising with the company's bank on an ongoing basis
- Preparation of short term financial forecasts
- Review of the company's monthly financial accounts and reconciling those results with the weekly profitability estimates
- Preparation of financial reports for the Board of Directors.
This is some of the duties that a senior accounting person, in a public company, would encounter. The question I put to you is - Do your small/medium enterprise clients have similar problems? This would then lead to another question – Could your accountancy business provide a more value adding service to assist your small/medium enterprise business clients by offering them a virtual 'Chief Financial Officer' service?
You will note in my summary of day-to-day activities that confronts the senior accountancy person in a public company, I didn't mentioned taxation because, in my experience, the tax return is not a high rating issue. What is – includes:
- Debtors' Management
- Cashflow Forecasts
- Foreign Currencies
- Preparing costings on the "CEO's 3.00am idea" to see whether it is feasible.
The various surveys of small business operators have identified that they would like to receive a wider range of services.
The CCH report "The SME the fine line between failure and success" identified key services that SMEs wanted supplied by accountants as:
- Management of costs
- Management monitoring
- Business Plans
- Assistance in raising capital or loan funds
- Expansion Advice
In the MYOB survey SMEs were asked "What type of advice would you like to receive from your accountant that you are not currently receiving?" The answers included:
- Future Planning
- Budget analysis and interpretation
- Tax planning
- Raising finance
- Succession for exit planning
- Information technology
- Record keeping
- Compiling with the law
In addition, I believe that if a SME survey was conducted today there would be a high rating for advice on:
- Personal Property Securities Register requirements
- Digital Disruption – "How will my business be affected?"
- Government grants that might assist the business to rejuvenate itself and its team
If your accountancy business aspires to be rated 10 out of 10 from your small/medium enterprise clients, I believe it will be necessary for your accountancy business to embrace offering a virtual 'Chief Financial Officer' service to small/medium enterprise clients now, rather than delaying a decision for a few more years by which time some of the small/medium enterprise clients may have decided to change accountants to firms which are offering a wider range of business advisory services which are assisting to build value to their business.
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