Can an accountant provide more than just tax services?Â Obviously this depends on the accountant and their level of personal experience but the simple answer is yes, they can.Â Accounting is a profession that requires years of schooling at a university level, than post graduate certification study will generally be undertaken, followed by ongoing compulsory personal development.Â Their study involves more than just numbers, reports and reactive processes and procedures; it includes areas such as strategic analysis, planning, forecasting, management and governance.Â A strategic accountant can look at a business right across its value chain.Â Today Iâ€™m going to talk on a strategic level and recognise that, in many instances, your competitive advantage is you and your team.
If you have a commodity type product or service your competitive advantage is usually not in the product or service itself (an example in the accounting services environment is the provision of tax services.Â An example in another industry would be a real estate agent, or in a retail setting, a tyre sales business).Â Therefore your competitive advantage must be in the way you do business.
Your style, ethos, attitude, systems, work practices, level of service and attention to detail will all work together to determine your competitive advantage.
In marketing language this would be your brand, and we all know the power of branding, just look at Coke or Nike.Â There is always an aura or associated culture that goes with the brand and it is your style, your ethos, your attitude, your systems, your work practices, your level of service and your attention to detail that all work together to bring it about.
While your business may never rival Coke or Nike, it should mean something to those who have purchased your products or services, and we are talking on an emotional level.Â The customerâ€™s perception could be that â€śthese guys are;
- sharp and professional;
- same as the next guys;
- a bunch of dodo birdsâ€ť,
or anything in between.
A customer has multiple opportunities in which to form an opinion of your business, whether it is in the advertising material, during their interactions with you, from the product or services you provide or from your reputation.
The best part is that you have control over a customerâ€™s perception, so rather than being passive you can actively pursue how you would like to be perceived by your customers.Â This means that you and your staff are your differentiation strategy.
Do you know your regular customers by name?Â Do you know their likes and dislikes?Â Do you know your products or services inside out and backwards and are able to explain exactly how they will meet the customers need?Â Do you consistently deliver the same level of service to all of your customers?Â Have you only sold a product or service or have you created an experience for your customers, and not just the first time, but each and every time?
Your opposition wonâ€™t be able to compete with you because they donâ€™t have you on their team. You do, and that makes all the difference
In fact, if you gave up dealing in your current offering tomorrow and started sellingâ€¦ office furniture, or Persian carpets, or shipping containers, or carpet cleaning, nothing at your core should change. Your business philosophy should stay the same, your fundamental values should stay the same, and even a lot of your systems and procedures should stay the same.
In the end, the product or service you offer doesnâ€™t make all that much difference; itâ€™s your staff as the embodiment of your business that your customers will purchase first.