Brad Shofer offers us a two-part piece about the influences on the small business owner's purchasing decisions. In Part One, Shofer discusses the role the accountant plays in a small business's selection of accounting software Part 1: The accountantIt can be very beneficial for a reseller to appreciate just exactly what influences small business owners in their purchasing decisions. When it comes to accounting software, as with most buying decisions, they usually don't act independently.
Acquiring and installing an accounting system is a significant undertaking for any business, a decision which is not to be taken lightly. It's important to get it right the first time.
The average small business owner realises that she or he is not an expert in the field and looks elsewhere for advice. The most common reference point is usually the business's accountant.
Just who is the business's accountant?
Most small businesses don't have an accountant on staff. In this sector it often simply isn't economically viable to employ an accountant full-time. That's why business owners look to software to help them fulfil the vital role of managing their business finances on a day-to-day basis (and that's why the software they choose must be easy to use).
However, at various times during the year, every successful business needs good advice from a professional. This is where public accountants step in. They're also often referred to as practising accountants.
Most practising accountants belong to one of the two major Australian accounting bodies. If they have the title ACA or FCA after their name, they are members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. Alternatively if they have the letters CPA after their name, they belong to the Australian Society of CPAs. This distinction doesn't matter too much, but the more you understand their qualifications, the better.
Public, or practising accountants, have a client base usually consisting of hundreds of different businesses to which they provide services. In any one day they might interact with any number of their clients. This can be contrasted to an in-house accountant who is employed by one business and spends every day working in that business.
The public accountant as a key influencerThere are many reasons why the public accountant is the small business owner's first reference point for advice on selecting accounting software:
The accountant often has a long-term relationship with the business and therefore understands its needs intimately;As an outside party he or she can look at things objectively;They usually understand the importance of matching the real needs of the business with the capabilities of the accounting system. For example, if the business buys and sells things then there is no point in selecting a package without a strong inventory handling capability and the ability to generate and track purchase orders;Because they work with a number of clients they usually have exposure to a variety of systems and therefore are some way down the track to understanding the ins and outs of each package under consideration; They understand their own needs in order to handle the data from their client's system. This is an important selection consideration, as long as it does not overshadow the needs of the business in using the system on a day-to-day basis. Remember their client will be using the software daily while the accountant may not access it more than once a quarter;They can seek answers to any outstanding questions from the software vendor, with whom they may already have a relationship;By involving them in the computerisation process early, their support is guaranteed later on.
You may have noticed major hardware vendors seeking to build alliances with one another of late. I'm sure you'll find it beneficial to do so yourself at a local level. Get to know the public accountants in your area. You may get this opportunity when a customer is buying software or you may have to promote your business to them. They're all listed in the Yellow Pages.
If you show them how well you look after your (and what might be their) clients, you may find them referring you to the next client who seeks their advice.