Accounting for millennials

August 7, 2017 -  By

Millennial business owners and managers demand an ever-increasing amount of real time information. They embrace technology and can make decisions quickly based on financial and operational dashboards.

Our accounting firm and many of our peers have noticed a need to accommodate millennials’ thirst for services and information presented in a much different manner than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

Here’s how accounting firms are adapting to cater to millennials.

Industry specialization

On top of general accounting and tax information, clients expect their accountants to be thoughtful and insightful on common operational issues and industry-related regulations. “Niche” accountants must understand how decisions will affect the entire company. The key performance indicator of any business is gross margin. This number is so important because gross margin is the fraction used to determine the rate at which overhead gets paid and where breakeven is reached. Theoretically, a business owner uses gross margin to calculate how many units of a product or service needs to be sold to profit. The accountant who specializes in the landscape industry understands that those units are synonymous with hours worked by various workers and, in turn, can formulate a pricing and compensation policy that follows Department of Labor guidelines.

Paper is out, digital is in

In our experience, millennials overwhelmingly prefer digital document storage over paper. Rather than having to call an accountant, companies want immediate access to data. Digital data vaults are encrypted and offer tiered access depending on position. For example, the owner can view personal financial statements and other sensitive information while the general manager may only have access to operational or sales reports. These vaults give clients full access without having to wait on a document request from the accountant.

Cloud-based systems

Cloud-based software provides 24/7 access. Cloud solutions are usually subscription-based, making the monthly fee predictable. Plus, with no updates to install, the user is always plugged in to the latest version. Since the application is hosted remotely, all users are instantly connected in real time. Most of our clients use QuickBooks Online, which is easy to use, reasonably priced and offers powerful reporting.

Flat rates/fixed fees

We hear clients say consultants, accountants and lawyers who have open hourly billing policies make them feel uneasy. They sell time, and time charges may not always be in line with expectations. There is nothing worse than a big, fat unexpected bill. Fee-based services negate that problem. These services are priced based on value provided at a predetermined fixed price. Many progressive accounting firms are moving to this model, and clients seem to embrace it.

Bookkeeping, bill paying and invoicing

Traditional accounting firms provide audit, tax and after-the-fact write-up services. With cloud-based accounting software, it’s now easy for accounting firms to provide bookkeeping, accounts payable and invoicing services remotely. Many millennial clients don’t want to deal with non-core competencies and would rather outsource. From a pricing and quality perspective, we’ve seen the outsourced CFO/bookkeeping model is efficient.

Business coaching/strategic guidance

Millennials also seem to want timely and relevant recommendations on how to use real-time information to prepare budgets, marketing plans and other services to grow profits and value in their firms. They look at their accountants as valuable management team members to provide these services.

Business cycles now move quicker than ever. Landscape companies need to be agile and adapt to the latest technologies. Accountants should be ready when companies call looking for answers to tax questions or for help negotiating with bankers, insurance agents and/or auditors.

Business has never been more interesting. Speak to your accountant. Ask for his or her insights on business, taxes, financial, operational planning and cloud accounting. These are conversations your up-and-coming competitors are having. You should be having them, too.

Photo: ©istock.com/Sitthiphong

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Daniel S. Gordon

About the Author:

Gordon is a New Jersey-based CPA and owner of Turfbooks, an accounting firm that caters to land care professionals throughout the U.S. Reach him at dan@turfbooks.com.

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