Advisors are key to digital adoption


23rd June, 2021

Advisors hold the keys to small business digital adoption

Business advisors like accountants and bookkeepers are becoming empowered to do so much more than advise on tax and business finances.

While the need for specialist business advisors like accountants and bookkeepers may have initially developed from compliance drivers, such as tax, they’re fast becoming a critical piece of the digital enablement puzzle for small businesses.

This trend is driven by a complex of related issues: tax legislation continues to evolve, as does technology, while the pressures on businesses to adapt continues to increase day-by-day.

It’s little wonder, then, that small business owners feel perpetually overwhelmed and behind the eight-ball.

A recent survey of 1,000 of this business category clearly highlights the challenges faced across the board, with 32 percent citing cash flow and the cost of utilities chief among their concerns. Meanwhile, the pain of late payments has increased by four percentage points over six months, with 29 percent highlighting the issue.

Sound familiar? These issues are by no means new ones, as the MYOB Business Monitor research continues to reveal a recurrence of the same concerns year-on-year.

But there is a solution.

Digital enablement delivers true upside

The history of technological development demonstrates the power new tools have in delivering massive gains in efficiency and productivity.

But today we see a significant gap when it comes to the uptake of bleeding edge cloud tech when comparing the small and medium (SME) business sector with enterprise-level organisations.

“Despite the rapid acceleration of digital adoption over the past 12 months, we estimate half a million Australian SMEs still have no or low levels of digitisation,” wrote MYOB chief executive Greg Ellis, in a recent report on the digital economy.

“It’s a missed opportunity for these businesses and for the nation. SMEs are responsible for over a third of Australia’s economic output and employ nearly half of the nation’s workforce.”

The research revealed in the Closing the gap report showed that greater levels of digital adoption could add $10.5 billion to the Australian economy, and this is the reason why MYOB has asked the government to incentivise the uptake of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms.

Looking at just one business challenge — invoicing — MYOB research reveals small businesses can expect to get paid up to three times faster* by switching to online invoice payments alone. Imagine the time saved, and value earned, when you add in other core functions like e-invoicing, automated billing or advanced financial reporting suites?

Given the tangible benefits to business owners, what’s holding them back from going ‘full slather’ in online payments and other business tech?

Harry Linden, BAS agent, bookkeeper and owner of Lakesview Accounting Solutions, has a view — and it’s one shared by many advisors across the country.

“A leopard doesn’t change its spots and you can’t change a small business owner’s mindset,” said Linden in a recent interview with The Pulse. “But that’s where specialist advisors come in and deliver real value.”

Business owners seek confidence from advisors

Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” may continue to ring true today, but the reality is, while taxes continue to exist, they’re anything but stable and consistent.

In fact, taxation continues to evolve almost as quickly as the technology that businesses use to comply with them. This has been a major challenge for MYOB as much as it has been for its clients and customers.

“There’s been a huge amount of change in MYOB’s products over the years,” said Linden, who can recall versions as far back as V13. “But keeping up with the Joneses, as it were, isn’t something that small business owners are necessarily good at — they’re always looking for something that’s set-and-forget.”

Coming from someone who’s worked for big corporate organisations as an accountant and technology advisor to now owning his own small business consultancy for other small businesses, this isn’t an accusation from Linden as much as it is a statement of fact.

“I guess I’m lucky to have seen both sides of the coin — the truth is small business owners already have so many things to do in their day before they can even worry about the vagaries of business finance tech and software updates, there’s little wonder such a large proportion of them struggle with it.

“But this is where specialist advisors like myself and all the other accountants and bookkeepers out there need to step it up and work together to continue educating other small business owners.”

With tools like MYOB available to small business owners, sometimes the situation is as simple as showing a client how to get the most out of a feature, and guiding them towards the value.

“For each of these opportunities, I take a day of my time to spend on educating the client,” he said. “As an example, I started with a particular customer who was still doing everything on spreadsheets and it took a lot of hands-on time to get her to take a close look at new features.

“In that way, it’s like anything else in the tech world; you implement something and then you’ve got to go back and optimise things. And that’s as true for my client, as it is for me, as it is for MYOB.”

But with new features like recurring transactions, e-invoicing and online invoice payments appearing in MYOB’s online platform on a regular basis, at least that’s taking away some of the complexity for both the advisor and the small business client.

READ: How digital payments tech can help SMEs get paid faster

“MYOB is known as a platform that doesn’t need many add-ons in order to acquire core business functionality,” said Linden. “Having been involved with a number of their releases and seeing the trajectory the company is on, I’m even more confident of their trajectory than ever before — and that means I can confidently recommend MYOB as a solution to my clients.”

Even better, with completely separate fees and charges, advisors can now make certain they’re not billed for client invoice payment fees and charges.

“It’s another great addition for advisors who pay MYOB subscription fees on behalf of their clients,” said Linden. “MYOB is making it easier for me to do the books for myself as well as my customers.”

Make invoicing and reconciling payments easier for your customers, without carrying the cost by taking advantage of a separate direct debit account for online invoice payments fees and charges. Find out more today.

*Based on a sample of two million MYOB invoices between August 2019 and July 2020 on days to payment for invoices paid via online invoice payments versus non-online invoice payment invoices.