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As accountants, we are our clients’ most trusted business advisors. What may surprise us is how many of them also turn to us for technology advice. But it makes sense,  since they are used to asking us which bookkeeping and other programs to use, they’ll also turn to us for advice on how to use it, and how to implement the infrastructure and business processes that surround bookkeeping software.

So if you’re an accountant, guess what? You also become a small business technology resource. And if you don’t feel up to providing such consulting advice, you have some choices. A) You can develop the knowledge and resources needed within your firm; B) You can create strategic partnerships to can fill the gaps you don’t want to service so you remain a pivotal resource for your clients, or C) Risk losing your clients to competitors.

This special client relationship has not been missed by the accounting software vendors, either. Most accounting software companies have “accountant channels” of some sort. They also know that accounting practices want as many clients as possible to use the same system, because it simplifies and streamlines client services, while reducing staff training costs.

The channel marketing strategy has its benefits for accountants, because vendors such as Intuit and Sage provide advanced training that helps us be better prepared to support clients’ needs by knowing their applications. There are also discounts and reseller programs that provide additional revenue for accountants. Technology companies that create add-on programs that enhance QuickBooks, Peachtree and others have also offer many of the same benefits.

This relationship ultimately benefits the client. After all, a good in-house bookkeeping application and specialty programs that enhance it can help a client be more efficient and productive. But it also helps if the accountant knows the program or is affiliated with a consulting firm that can assist with implementation and other issues. If the client’s accounting and business process systems integrate with the accountant’s tax systems, then it’s even more beneficial, making it easier and more efficient for the firm to provide services and support for the client.

But how can your accounting practice keep up with the latest program changes? And how can you find the add-on solutions that can help your clients succeed? We all are pressed for time and it has to take non-billable time out of our day to get up to speed.

Vendors assist accounting professionals in learning their products via webinars, online demos, and telemarketing activities. However, it is difficult to sort through all systems to decide which to work with or recommend to our clients. This is where live conferences can really deliver value. By focusing dozens of vendors into a dedicated event, we can very efficiently learn about many different solutions in a concentrated amount of time – we need the CPE anyway! Why not learn how to grow our practice while attending a CPE event or conference?

There are so many shows to attend. Being onsite with vendors and expert speakers helps us to learn what we need to know in a more intimate environment than being online. We can meet vendors in person and ask questions while they demo features that solve our clients’ pain points. Vendor shows are great resources, but are limited since they do not discuss competing. Society conferences like the AICPA’s Tech+ and those for members of groups like the American Society of Women Accountants, National Society of Accountants and American Accounting Association are good for professionals who want to prepare for the future and engage in networking opportunities. Likewise, the regional and state conferences, such as those in New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles, provide a good overview of technologies and consulting techniques.

When it comes to technologies that small businesses use, and how accountants and consultants can become more knowledgeable and skilled with those programs, the annual conference organized by The Sleeter Group, offers vendor-independent training, expert knowledge, networking and VAR opportunities for major small business software and SaaS options. This conference is scheduled this November in Orlando and is called the Next Generation Accounting Solutions Conference. It will have more than 60 different sessions that are CPE-eligible, covering all aspects of QuickBooks and other small business software products, in addition to third-party add-ons. The conference offers keynotes and seminars by expert accounting and technology expert, including Darren Root, CPA.CITP, Randy Johnston, Leslie Shiner, Gail Perry, Greg LaFollette, CPA.CITP, Doug Sleeter and myself. To learn more information about this conference, go to http://www.sleeterconference.com.

With so many resources available to us online and at conferences, you can jump start your practice this fall to offer brand new value-added services to your clients.

Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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