How can accountants help clients innovate?

16th February, 2016

Have you brought your clients up to speed on the Prime Minister’s new innovation agenda? You should.

First there was the mining boom; now there’s the nationally focussed #ideasboom.

Say a client asks you what the ideas boom offers them. “Not much — it’s all about science and big universities” is the wrong answer. Innovation is also about changing and adapting your business to better serve the marketplace. It’s about increasing productivity and improving performance for all businesses.

Small to medium sized business owners (SMEs) often feel isolated and lonely running their business. Yes, it can be lonely at the top, making all the decisions, being the motivation and inspiration all the time.

They need a trusted advisor — someone like you, their accountant, who they already trust with their financial security. Your clients need your leadership. If it is not going to be you, it will be the next accountant or business coach in the line.

Here’s what you need to do to get your slice of the innovation pie:

Make it relevant

  • Many SMEs may be struggling to see any relevance of the innovation agenda to their business. Innovation is possible in any business; become the catalyst for it.
  • Use the #ideasboom to position yourself within the national innovation framework to engage targeted clients in discussions beyond taxes and cash flow. Be proactive about helping your clients meet existing goals.
  • Don’t let your clients ‘check out’ of the #ideasboom before it has even begun.

Educate yourself

  • Consume as much material on innovation and entrepreneurship as you can.
  • Understand the meaning of entrepreneur in terms of a startup business verses existing businesses.
  • Discover the startup scene in your area and gain some insight into the bright, enthusiastic and talented local community.
  • Start at Federal Government’s Innovation website.

Keep it real

  • Don’t get swept away with enthusiasm of the startup scene. Not every great idea is profitable, or able to raise capital.
  • Start with your existing clients. As you learn, share your knowledge.
  • Bring your clients together. Educate them on what innovation is, how they can learn from startups and the information of the ideas boom.
  • Facilitate a client forum to bounce ideas off other business owners, building your client base into your network of innovators.
  • Help each client walk away from your #ideasboom session with at least one innovative idea to pursue (large or small).
  • Encourage each client to bring their own employees together for a similar dedicated session to seek new ideas about their current business process, products or untapped opportunities.

Be an agent for change

  • Why let your clients go to other to be inspired? Develop your knowledge, and by seeing you in a new light, new opportunities for your business will arise.
  • To be an agent for a change in the way your clients think, act and innovate, you too must change. Take the first steps; select an idea and get going.
  • It is hard to be the catalyst for change when you can’t change yourself. Lead by example: leverage the marketing and materials of the #ideasboom to innovate and change not only your business, but that of your clients as well.


  • After you have helped your clients assemble all their good ideas, rank and select the feasible innovations to go after. Set up an innovation monitoring process to track goals.
  • Make sure the innovation targets are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound). It could be as simple as adding it to your existing client scorecard or reports.
  • Meet with your clients in time slots allocated specifically to project innovation. Discuss progress and provide advice and guidance.
  • Don’t flog a dead horse: some ideas are great but just have to be left on the table. Some clients won’t want to change, and that’s OK. Work with the ones who need you.

Become an agent for change and a catalyst for innovation.

By becoming the go-to person for innovation, you will grow your your own business and help clients innovate and change their way of thinking and acting.

Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is subject to change without notice. No representation is made as to how accurate, current or complete the information is, even though every effort has been taken to ensure this is the case. This general information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and users should obtain any appropriate accounting, legal or other professional advice relevant to their particular circumstances.