By Allinial Global CEO Terry Snyder
In the age of Amazon and Netflix, flexibility, customization, and on-demand solutions reign supreme. Gone are the days of the “one size fits all” approach—today’s consumers expect and demand tailored products and services that conform exactly to their needs exactly when they’re needed.
But what does this mean for the accounting profession? Although the industry has its quirks, it is by no means immune to current trends. As technology and globalization continue to open new doors to unprecedented opportunities and challenges, clients are shifting toward a more global, interconnected mindset, often coming to their advisors with needs that stretch or even fall outside a firm’s typical areas of expertise or geographic location.
Consider, for example, a client who approaches its USA-based accounting firm in search of a health-care solution in Spain. The first instinct for most firms facing this type of request is to connect the client with a destination-only solution in Spain. In other words, the solution selected is based primarily on the member’s location in Spain with little regard for the services and expertise the connection is able to offer. If the connection in Spain lacks health-care expertise, the client’s needs are only partially addressed.
This is a critical problem in the industry today, the needs of clients are becoming more and more specific, and many firms are struggling to meet those needs. Clients are looking for innovative solutions that account for both location and skillset, but finding that match is often easier said than done.
For independent firms in particular, responding to a broader range of specialized client needs can be legitimately challenging. As suggested by the growing trend of mergers in the industry, it’s difficult to compete upstream without the availability of substantial resources and an aggressive approach to connectivity.
In this complex and demanding market, many firms are losing sight of why they should join an association. But when you start asking people what they need, most will tell you they have limited resources and they need someone who can help them get better and stronger faster. And that’s exactly why they should consider membership in an association.
Membership in an association allows independent firms to maintain their independence while benefitting from access to shared tools, targeted educational programs, and networking opportunities that improve their ability to innovate and compete. Association membership offers precisely the kind of connectivity and flexibility that independent firms need to keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of their clients.
The wealth of expertise offered by accounting associations is especially beneficial for firms that have clients expanding internationally or experimenting with new services. In the past, independent firms risked losing business whenever a client need exceeded their current capabilities or geographic reach. But with the help of an association membership, accounting firms can turn to the association to get the answers they need to complete challenging engagements successfully.
As the industry becomes more global and specialized, flexibility and client-focused service will continue to be key. When there’s no way to predict where the future will take your firm or your clients, membership in an association can offer your firm the connections and resources it needs to minimize the challenges of an evolving industry and capitalize on its opportunities.