Professional services in general and business services, in particular, are major growth opportunity areas. Businesses are being started daily and while not many do so those who survive can surely credit good financial advice as a key to success. Starting an accounting firm to take advantage of opportunities in this broad field presents a few key considerations.
The accounting business has different aspects and it’s possible for a firm to offer all these services. The following are the main areas of accounting
Reporting – this covers all areas to do with record creation and keeping including bookkeeping. Financial reporting and statements are all part of the reporting aspect. All businesses require reporting services.
Audit – contrary to popular belief audit is a function of accounting that is concerned with following rules and procedures in reporting and not fraud detection alone. Yes, it can uncover fraud among other things but audits purpose is to assess the degree to which the reporting is being done correctly. While not all businesses are required to have an external audit done internal audit function becomes more important as a business grows.
Tax – Taxation is very important to businesses. Primarily because every business would want to ensure they minimize amounts outgoing but also because tax law can get pretty heavy. Income tax, pay as you earn, capital gains tax and value-added tax among others form a complicated web that requires professional assistance.
Advisory – Advisory takes many forms but it is essentially the act of proposing direction for a business. Advise can be offered on a strategic, tactical or operational level. This can be considered as an additional service in most cases.
Business are like children; they are individually unique but tend to have similar characteristics. As such selecting a niche or area of expertise to work in will be important for any good practice. Industry experience dictates the ability of a firm to understand the idiosyncrasies of specific businesses.
Consider this in the environments of tax, audit, and advisory. Taxation rules are specific to particular industries and demonstrated experience in handling tax affairs of certain industries will go a long way towards convincing clients you are the right business for the engagement. Much like tax audit is very specific in terms of understanding the internal control environments of different industries. Advisory obviously requires an understanding of industries as well as business models to be effective. Identifying your niche will help focus your marketing efforts.
Staff are important in any organization. In this industry having the right staff is essential as you are entirely a service business. The right staff comes down to a number of factors. We’ve spoken about experience already. Qualification is very important as the industry is highly professionalized. Membership with organizations such as ICAZ and ACCA are important and give clients a standard to expect in engaging with your firm. There is also a need to look at the psychological fit to both the organization and the work.
The Public Accountants and auditors board oversees all public accounting organizations in the country. At the very least membership with this organization is necessary. To qualify for membership with the board individuals must be suitably qualified members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe or the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Zimbabwe Branch. Both these qualifications are backed by the requirements of study as well as work experience.
Affiliation is the bare minimum and you must be able to demonstrate to your clients that you can help them. Above and beyond qualifications. It is also wise to partner where possible, international accounting and advisory firms are always looking for representatives to partner within a country. Consider this as a sort of a franchise arrangement with firms having their own requirements. It is not standardized.
This industry is viewed by many to still be stuck in its ways but it is perhaps one of those most affected by digital disruption. There are new ways to find, communicate with and service customers. Cloud computing means there are more ways to collaborate on work and service clients. Flexible working arrangements mean that you don’t entirely need to have all skills in house. You can work with third-party providers without violating the code of ethics enshrined in the Public Accountants and Auditors Act. And there’s so much more that embracing digital disruption can do for you in this business.
The industry in itself is old but as business changes so it must too. There are opportunities for those who understand the modern business forms and practices and how to report, plan and advise for them. Businesses are like children and everyone wants to know that theirs is in the right hands. Present market solutions can always be improved with the right attitude and outlook. And a little daring of course.