Listen to this episode here: Marketing & New Tech for Accountants

Welcome to our podcast TALKING NUMBERS with Paul Jansz, we have our special guest Andrew Van De Beek, Director of Illumin8 – the winner of “Marketing Program of the Year 2020”. Andrew is passionate about making a difference for his team and obsessed with the technological potential of the Accounting Industry.

How has lockdown been for you and the business?

Things have been pretty amazing, but we’ve worked so hard for them to be amazing. Our hearts have hurt for so many of our clients and some of my team have worked harder than we’ve ever worked before.

I heard there is a recent Award, can you share a bit about it?

Yes, we won the “Marketing Program of the Year” (2020). It’s something that we were actually really stoked about, mainly because we believe so greatly in how we go about what we do and how we communicate that to our clients and our broader community. It’s nice to be recognised, valued, honoured, respected, and awarded – that’s incredible.

Sometimes the stereotype of an accountant means that they’re not necessarily as comfortable with doing those marketing activities, but that’s where they should be leveraging getting good people in to do so. What we often see is you get certain people that end up in business. That’s when you take the transition from practising your craft to managing and cultivating a business that delivers on upon that craft.

If there was one thing that you could share with our listeners, from a marketing point of view, what would that be?

We need to make sure that we’re understanding what our clients actually require and how they need to be communicated to. We try to avoid talking about things like watching your tax return and completing your business activity statement or using language like keeping you out of jail by getting things done on time and accurate. It’s more about what your clients have gone through and how you are going to provide them great freedom.

If you can communicate the outcome a lot more, I find that clients are more willing to invest in you and your way of doing things.

You talked about the potential of the accounting industry as a whole. Can we break that down a little bit?

I have massive respect for the industry as it is right now, but I can also see what it could do. I think that our business community is really continuing to look for good strong leaders out there. The leaders are not just copying and pasting everything that exists right now.

For me, the potential of the accounting industry is to impact our clients. Losing ourselves from what has always been done, and taking an approach of what should be done, and how could we go about achieving that. So, what does it look like? If your junior accountant in the team has a voice and can impact the way you deliver things. It’s really the industry itself is having a greater understanding and realisation of the impact that it can have, and then being delivered in a way that is creative, impactful, and purposeful.

Right now, we know that accountants are told what they could or should be doing. Whether they like it or not, is the challenge.  There’s a level of potential that sits there untapped that if they’re willing to access it. We can design it the way that we want it to be because we don’t have to do the things that we’ve always done. We can still be profitable, drive value, and have great clients.

How important has the use of technology become in this potential?

It’s absolutely foundational in a successful, sustainable business. I’m a little bit biased in that since I’ve been running Illumin8 for just over eight years now. We were born in cloud-based technology.  We’re really fortunate in that thinking and talking about new technology is an opportunity and excitement as opposed to something that is daunting. If we think about it from systems and processes, it’s about how to meet our client’s expectations.

We need to have something in place that helps us to understand our client’s expectations. What should we be delivering? When should we be delivering it? How should we be delivering it? And how can we take some of that responsibility away from human error by a strict automated process?

Systems and processes give us greater clarity on what we’re trying to achieve and when we need to achieve it. It also allows us to deal with things in mass and in bulk

What are the top three apps that you couldn’t live without today?

For me, number one would probably be Slack, the communication tool. It allows us to segment certain types of conversations, as well as funnel information from external sources into one point of truth.

The second one is FYI Docs, it’s accounting specific. It’s Microsoft specific, so we had to move from Google to Microsoft to use it, but we’re finding some incredible benefit. It helps to document management, task management, and job flow management.

The last one is 1Password, a password manager. By utilising a tool like 1Password, everything was secure and set up before we even set foot in the office. It means that I know I can access certain technology with crazy long passwords that are very difficult to hack and I have reliance on accessing that information as and where it needs to be.

Let’s talk about some of the key numbers. What are some of the key things that you measure within the business?

We look at a handful of different things and we have a couple of tools. The key driver for us, as should be any business, is the money that’s leftover after you’ve spent it on everything else, otherwise affectionately known as net profit. At the end of the day, we are an eight-year-old business, we should be at a point where we’re generating some company profit.

Outside of that, there are other things we want to be aware of, which can help us to understand the success of the business and achieve our growth goals. Those kinds of key areas include marketing acquisition performance, typical client lifetime value, and so on. They helped us to understand if we are winning the right type of clients and the right type of work.

We also look at the amount of investment time that our people are putting into the business, but not for billing purposes. We use it more for productivity and efficiency perspectives.

Recurring revenue is really important when you’re not a software business. We’re a subscription business and our clients are paying a monthly fee to have a relationship with us. We’re looking at if we are winning the type of work that’s recurring revenue. What the average value is and where’s that come from, are the key business-level metrics.

We build every single client into a calendar, we send them a calendar at the start of the year and say we’re going to do your work at this point, and we

Can you share a piece of advice with our audience?

I think when running an accounting business, you’re going to be challenged. There will be times your clients are going to ask you to do things that you might not feel comfortable doing. You might have employees that might come back and challenge you on things. You might have business partners that you have disagreements with. And there will be a point in time where you need to stand up and act in a way that represents the values and the person that you are. You should first pause and think, what’s the best way to approach this to ensure that you know: I’m defined by how I go through this, but not by what I’m going through.