Growing your accountancy firm can be exciting, though hard work, especially when making decisions about growth. Scaling up to the next level needs careful handling.
But how do you balance the need to expand, without overreaching too soon (and unnecessarily spending money in the process)?
From taking on new staff, to providing them with the tools they need, a growing client list gives you lots to think about.
Flexible growth for accounting firms
It’s the eternal problem of any growing business. Without predicting the future, it’s difficult to avoid lumbering yourself with office space or software licences you don’t need.
Balancing the need for investment with cost-efficiency is a delicate process. Generally, and as you probably tell your clients, growing slowly is usually the most stable option.
Where that’s not an option, it’s worth looking at areas where you can be flexible. For instance:
- using contractors or temporary staff, until you’re ready to take people on permanently.
- recruiting people who work from home, so you don’t need larger premises straight away.
- using cloud based software, rather than single-licence-per-user.
The problem with software licenses
For growing accountancy firms, choosing software that scales with them is a big consideration. Software licences can be expensive, and usually anchor the licence to a single person, or to a single computer.
Even if the software provider will bundle licences into package offers, you’ll still need to upgrade your subscription to grow.
How do you get around the license challenge though?
You could start with a standard software plan, and upgrade as you go. Or, bite the bullet, and purchase a huge license with the intention to grow into it.
If you’re slowly growing and are hesitant to pay for a huge license, what you need is software that grows with you, at your own pace.
In other words, you need software which doesn’t punish you for growing, and which provides flexible, unlimited access, no matter how big your firm is.
Scalable cloud accounting software
The great thing about cloud accounting software is that it’s flexible.
- Because you access it through the internet, you won’t need to install software onto each computer. This makes it ideal if you have remote staff, or travel a lot.
- The software provider also hosts (or at least deals with hosting) the data. It means that you don’t need to think about storage space, whether digital or otherwise. You basically pay for the storage as part of your subscription. It can grow with you, without needing to stop and buy extra space or physical servers. Or, if you shrink, you’re not stuck paying for stuff you no longer need.
- Rather than you downloading and installing updates, the service provider updates the software on the cloud. You’re always using the most up-to-date version, and therefore the most stable and secure software option.
- With an emphasis on flexibility, most cloud accounting software providers offer a subscription-based model. You’re unlikely to need to make a huge investment up front, and you only need to pay more once you’ve grown.
Other software providers keep things even simpler and have a free vs. pro version available at a fixed cost each month.
Though it’s a recurring cost, it tends to be much cheaper than the so called one-off payment options (which usually still need renewing anyway).
Choosing accounting software for your growing accountancy practice
If you know it’s time to start looking for alternative accounting software, there are key things you’ll want to bear in mind.
Your own accountancy firm shouldn’t be your only concern. Hopefully, your clients’ businesses are also growing, which means their demand for your services will also grow, along with all your new clients.
To simplify things, you might want to consider making software available to your clients. This way, they can keep digital bookkeeping records that you can access as necessary.
Again, flexible, cloud-based accounting software is likely to be the most convenient option here. So what do you need to look for?
Accounting software with unlimited users
Multiple accountants, all with multiple clients, means you need software which can accommodate everyone at once, without issue. If you are providing access to clients, they might want to add extra people to their account as well.
Basically, storage and ensuring the software doesn’t fall over when lots of people sign in, becomes the software providers problem.
Focusing your search on accounting software which moves away from the fixed license structure is also going to be your best bet for keeping software costs down.
Accountancy firms that work with clients all over the country, or beyond, definitely need software which can cope with that.
Is the software able to deal with multiple currencies? Can you access it from anywhere?
Even when business is booming, affordability is a core part of making business decisions. Are you considering accounting software options which are affordable long term?
Choose software which offers both flexibility and scalability for your accountancy firm. It will have you thanking yourself later down the line.
While your current pick may suit you now, think about what your business will look like in a year, or five years time.
If your aim is to grow, is your choice of software today going to make that difficult? Or is it designed to be flexible and scalable alongside your growth? Or, if you make a decision now, how easy will it be to change later on?
Scalability also applies to your clients, growing as they do.
Ease-of-use for all
Another thing to look at when comparing accounting software is how easy it is to use. You and your staff might be able to use the software if you know the terminology, but will your clients?
Software designed solely with accountants in mind may not be best suited to brand new startups with little bookkeeping experience.
If the software you plan to use is too complex for clients, you may end up spending more time on software training, than on accounting.
Growing businesses have complex needs, but most will look for the simplest solutions. Accounting software which enables users to combine features in one place is generally the most useful.
The concerns of most clients centre around invoicing their own clients, recording transactions, and keeping an eye on their finances.
Others will look for software that includes a mobile app, to make it even more portable, or integration with other tools. For instance, bank feeds, or VAT submissions.
A complete solution might not be possible, but ticking most of the boxes is a decent start.
Client collaboration tools
While client collaboration works well over the phone or through email, software providers are going one step further.
It allows accountants to view clients’ financial data in real time, and work on it with them. For example, leaving notes on transactions for your clients, or vice versa.
How to switch to another accounting software provider
If you decide that you want to switch to other software, it can seem like a daunting task. The good news is that most accounting software has a process for those wanting to switch services. Another benefit of cloud-based software is that information is already backed up, and easy to retrieve.
Choosing the right accounting software for future growth
When choosing accounting software, take the time to find what’s suitable for you now, whilst leaving room for future growth. Software which offers flexibility is usually the most cost-efficient, and least-stress option.
It might be worth asking your accountants about features they would like to see, or their experiences of other software. Having an idea of what to avoid and which features matter will help you narrow down your options more easily.
Find out more about what Pandle can do for your growing accountancy firm.