From XU Magazine, 
Issue 26

How to overcome the obstacles your practice will face in Spring 2021

More challenges lie ahead – here’s what you can do to take action

Caroline Plumb, Founder and CEO at Fluidly, offers practical solutions to the biggest challenges your practice will face in the months ahead.
This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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Do you remember when it was just the occasional government announcement you had to worry about? Big new initiatives, like Making Tax Digital, popped up every now and then, but you had enough time to get your head around them before they came into effect. 

The last 12 months couldn’t have been more different. Countless schemes, unlike anything that has come before and with ever-changing criteria, have been launched at an astonishing and sometimes overwhelming rate. For the first time, clients are listening to the Chancellor’s Budget speech too.

While the worst of the pandemic is hopefully now behind us, most industries are still dealing with the after-effects of the first wave of upheaval. Employee morale, the pros and cons of remote working, new ways of interacting with customers – you probably already know what will shape the months ahead for your practice. So here’s a few tactics to get on top of these challenges and ensure your firm doesn’t get left behind. 

Looking after your team

Accountants have gone above and beyond, saving thousands of businesses from the brink of collapse, but they haven’t had the recognition they deserve or the time to properly recharge. With so many of your team on the edge of exhaustion, how can you ensure staff remain happy and supported?

Employee wellbeing is like company culture – it starts at the top. So make sure managers are properly trained, doing regular 1:1s with direct reports and in a position to catch issues before they get worse. Health benefits platforms like Vitality can play a big part here, by providing discounted access to mindfulness apps and online mental health support services.

Simple things can have a big impact too. Doing something to say thank you, like a free food delivery from Deliveroo or Uber Eats, can make staff feel appreciated. HR tools can also be useful, by helping you monitor whether staff are taking advantage of annual leave, so you can bring it up and set the right example.  

A profitable and competitive practice 

Like your clients, you’ve probably introduced new ways to cut costs and make money over the last 12 months. Perhaps you’re paying less rent – through downsizing, renegotiating your lease or dispensing with your office space altogether. Maybe the cash coming in has changed too, if you’ve settled on a new pricing model or a different way of charging clients. 

With more accountants offering support online and bundling their services in similar ways, the playing field between practices has been levelled. Traditionally, business owners in London would probably turn to accountants in their local area. But now, what’s to stop them from hiring advisers in Newcastle, Newport, or anywhere else in the country? After all, most of their interactions are going to be over the phone anyway. 

This trend is nothing new. Take Bench, an enormously successful online accounting firm across the pond, which provides both software and access to one-on-one bookkeeping support. Crunch, which is offering a similar service to UK businesses, is also gathering pace. 

You may not be ready to strip back entirely, but with more practices providing the same services at ever more competitive prices, an online-only model is lighter, more scalable and well worth considering.  

Growing your practice with new services 

While the pandemic has dealt small businesses a heavy blow, it’s also made them grasp the cash moving through their business better than ever before. As a result, cashflow and funding services have never been more viable.

At the time of writing, government-backed CBILS loans were still set to end on 31 March. If the scheme does finish as planned, the lending market will change a great deal. As lenders tighten their belts, they’ll continue to favour growing businesses using funding for stock and asset purchases, rather than struggling businesses trying to stay afloat. 

How much energy should your practice expend when it comes to business finance, especially if funding isn’t your area of expertise? Often, in an adjacent service like this it makes more sense to work with a partner, who can take on the admin, paperwork and compliance risk. We can help here – by searching through lenders to make a recommendation on your behalf, so you can support clients more easily. 

Getting smarter and more efficient with technology 

Like the wellbeing of your team and your firm’s profitability, the success of your practice increasingly relies on the tools you use to support clients. Too many systems doing too many different things adds cost and inefficiency to your business. Simplifying things reduces this threat. 

By streamlining the tools and systems your practice uses, you can free up your team from the drudgery of constantly having to learn new pieces of software. A simpler set-up also creates something more replicable and lightweight, that’s easier to grow. You’re ready to hit the ground running, with your entire team poised to advise clients, rather than a select group of specialists. 

Fluidly allows you to do exactly that. From forecasting to funding, we give you everything you need to know about clients’ cashflow in one place – so you can support more clients, launch new services and grow your practice.

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