By James Higgie
The recent AICPA Agriculture Industry Conference held in Boston proved to be a pivotal event for agricultural accountants across the United States.
With the agricultural landscape evolving rapidly and facing unprecedented challenges, the conference provided a platform for accountants with agricultural clients to explore some of the innovative solutions available at their disposal and, perhaps more importantly, to rethink the role that accountants play in supporting their farming clients.
One of the highlights was the joint presentation by Figured and Intuit, "Scaling the Ag CAS Opportunity," which focused on how agri-accountants can leverage their people, data and technology to establish and scale high-value services.
Below are some of the key takeaways from the presentation. If you’d like us to send you a copy of the slide deck or would like to chat with a member of our team to learn more get in touch with us here.
Implementing scalable agri-services isn’t a demand or skills issue
In today's ever-changing environment, farmers require more than just basic tax and end-of-year accounting services. They require financial planning and budgeting support to be able to confidently navigate market fluctuations, climate uncertainties, and changing regulations.
No one is better placed to provide the trusted advice farmers need than their accounting advisors. Even if farmers aren't explicitly asking for it, accountants - combining their experience with the right tools and technology - have the knowledge and insights to proactively offer these support services to help improve the financial stability and performance of their client’s businesses.
Agri-accounting requires specialist tools
While cloud technology is transforming industries with its obvious benefits over desktop software and manual spreadsheets, the agriculture sector still sees a divide in the tools being used to manage farm finances. This is largely due to the unique and complex nature of farm accounting. Many accountants still rely heavily on generalist tools to perform tasks for their agri clients that they were never built to do.
By not using tools financial management tools purpose-built for agriculture that generate real-time insights to help you plan ahead with your clients, delivering high-value services at scale will always be a challenge.
The untapped potential of your existing client base
Figured and Intuit also shed light on the untapped potential that exists within an accountant's current agricultural client base. Accounting firms that only view clients as tax cases are missing out on numerous opportunities to provide more valuable services and grow their business.
Accountants who step up to proactively support their farming clients - helping them budget, plan, forecast and prepare for what’s ahead - will build greater trust with their clients and solidify themselves as critical members of the farming team. Those who don’t, risk being left with low-trust relationships and purely transactional work, the type being increasingly undermined by automation.
The areas of focus for scaling client advisory services
- Mindset: Expanding to offer higher-value advisory services requires a shift in mindset - moving from maintaining the status quo (largely reactive) to a more growth-orientated approach (more proactive). Embracing change and innovation is a critical step in the journey to providing more valuable service offerings.
- Services: Evaluating your current service offerings and client base enables you to explore how they can be leveraged for advisory purposes. Identifying opportunities within existing offerings is an effective first step to offering more comprehensive client solutions.
- Time: Developing standardized processes, automating routine tasks and upskilling staff are all solutions to the time constraints that firms face when looking to extend their agri services. Streamlining operations and creating efficiencies free up time that can be dedicated to more strategic advisory work.
- Opportunities: Segmenting clients allows accountants to tailor services for each group's unique needs. Being proactive with regular communication and focusing on establishing strong client relationships is essential to building trust and acts as a gateway to providing more valuable and future-focused services.
- Monetization: Create curiosity with your clients via annualized farm stats and modeling reports and expand advisory offerings through in-season performance reporting and benchmarking. Presenting data-driven insights to prospective clients enhances your firm's credibility and enables you to grow your customer base.
These high-level takeaways, along with further detail and insight shared in the presentation provide a blueprint for agricultural accountants to transform their role - from mere number crunchers to strategic advisors. The key is getting started now. We are here to guide accountants on the path to scaled agri services and to help solidify their positions as invaluable partners in their clients’ journey toward a more prosperous future.
To learn more about how Figured’s farm financial management technology is enabling accountants with agriculture clients to become more efficient, provide greater value to their clients, and grow their accounting business, get in touch with us here.