Jason Staats is a principal at Brenner LLP and is the founder of Launch FA and the Realize Community. He's focused on building better tools and solutions for modern accountants and firms, as well as building a future of accounting and small business with "no code." In today's show, Jason shares three key trends and tools he believes are changing the shape of accounting and small business.
In today's program, we're trying something a little different: the 3x3. The guest shares 3 trends and 3 tools for the accounting industry!
Key points from today's show:
- How Brenner has recently expanded
- Trend #1: Looking Outside the Usual Tech Stack to Help Businesses
- Trend #2: Tools That Wrap an API Around Legacy Tax and Accounting Software
- Trend #3: Using Bespoke Integrations to Create Custom Workflows
- Reprogram Your Mindset
- Understanding New Tax Laws for Businesses in 2021
- The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Accounting Firm Owners
- Is Business Banking Dead?
Jason's Recent Work at Brenner
Brenner LLP has been principally dedicated to providing tax services for the last 75 years. More recently, thanks in part to Jason's efforts, Brenner has expanded to providing other, CAS, or Client Accounting Services.
The business model Brenner has been using to extend these new services is interesting. They don't advertise these services publically. Instead, since they have a client list of thousands for their well-established tax services, they handpick which clients they want to offer new services to.
Could this be a business model other firms follow? Jason thinks so. An accounting firm may acquire a tax firm's clients, then slowly roll out new services to a select few clients. This would mean more billable services, thus more income, without all the cost of marketing to acquire new clients from scratch.
Of course, the model isn't for everyone. It would only apply in certain cases. But it is interesting to think about.
Now, let's dive into the three trends and tools Jason has noticed in the accounting community. There are some juicy tools to check out from this list.
Trend #1: Looking Outside the Usual Tech Stack to Help Businesses
Because Jason can see the most popular apps and software being used each year, he's noticing many tax and accounting firms offering a richer variety of services to help their small-business clients. The tools firms are using include B2B applications and other services that are outside the fences of the accounting industry.
One example is UCALC, a versatile embeddable calculator. Firms can add this tool to their websites so people can Calculate tax rates or run other calculations for free. This is a tool people may come back to again and again. It's like having a marketing funnel embedded right on your website, creating a fresh way to find clients without paying for advertising on Google or social media.
Trend #2: Tools That Wrap an API Around Legacy Tax and Accounting Software
In the accounting world, and in the world of taxes especially, the legacy software we use rarely plays nicely with other tools or systems. Unfortunately, many firms don't see a way out of using this legacy software. Until recently, this has made using these tools very labor-intensive.
For example, you may design a form to help clients send you information you need. But since this form doesn't play nice with the legacy software or tax suite you use, you still must manually enter information from the forms to the client's file within the software.
But what if there's another way? Many accountants are designing add-on tools that wrap an API around that legacy tool. That way the tax suite you use can integrate with a third-party integration tool like Zapier.
Jason gives the example of Electroneek, an RPA provider that includes a visual flow designer. Electroneek offers a companion tool that allows integration with Zapier, allowing it to work alongside countless other cloud-based tools and services.
Trend #3: Using Bespoke Integration Solutions
Adding to the concept of integration and tech, Jason points out that many accountants and firms are designing their own custom integration solutions. Integration tools like Zapier and Airtable make this easier than ever.
Accountants that learn how to create these custom integrations can identify pain points of their clients and then create bespoke software solutions to help them. Creating such a solution for a single client may not be cost effective, but what if you have dozens or hundreds of clients in the same industry or with the same need? Then creating a custom integration solution could mean thousands of dollars a month in additional income for the firm.
As an example, Jason points out that many of Brenner's clients are in the dental field. A common problem many of them have is reconciling batch deposits from customer payments. Until recently, many dental offices wouldn't do this at all because it's very time intensive. And firms couldn't reasonably offer this service to most small businesses because of the raw labour hours required. No dental office could afford that.
Then Brenner designed a bespoke integrated service that automatically reconciles payments and deposits. Once the software was finished, they could offer the service to hundreds of clients for a small fee. That added up to a large profit that will only grow over time.
Because tools like Zapier and Airtable make integration easier than ever, and other visual software development options are becoming available, many accountants and firms can now design complex software solutions using no code.
Jason hopes to continue to unite accountants in his community at Realize to build these tools and make them available.
Reprogram Your Mindset
This kind of outside-the-box forward thinking is new to the accounting world. Many firm owners now realize that they can go beyond the software already out there and create new tools and services for their clients.
To do this, you may have to reprogram your way of thinking. Jason suggests surrounding yourself with others that are thinking about these same things. He's recently started reaching out on social media to find others interested in the new potential technology can offer.
We have to stop thinking in terms of labor and start thinking about creating our own tools and software.
Designing tools and software will only get easier with time.
Of course, both Launch FA and Realize are designed to help you connect with like-minded forward-thinking accountants and firm owners and get a more outside-the-box mindset!
If you liked this format of "3x3" or digging into three top trends or tools, let us know so we can do it more often in the future.