Why SMEs won't pay for business advice – and how to change their minds

Research report.

In association with the ACCA.

The problem with business advice

The events of the last year has prompted some business owners to look to their accountant for new kinds of advice, from guidance on furlough, grants and loan applications, to support with Brexit-related changes.

But there’s a problem. Business owners still tend to view their accountants as people who are only interested in technical tax matters or structural changes in a business, and not as people they can to go to for broader business advice. They don’t see their accountant as someone who can talk to them about growing their business, or their long-term strategic goals.

For accountants who offer business advice as a service in its own right, or want to start doing so, overcoming that value gap is essential.

This report looks at:

  • How SME challenges align with accountancy services
  • The value business owners put on advice
  • Where the main misunderstandings and knowledge gaps lie between accountants and their prospects
  • Practical tips based on our experience so you can start connecting with clients and demonstrating the value of your advice.
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About this report

This report was created by Melissa Tredinnick and Jacob Pugh at PracticeWeb.

In association with ACCA.

Foreword

Over the past few years, increasing automation and the digitalisation of the tax system have created a shift in the accounting profession. Instead of taking a purely compliance-focused approach, more and more firms are focusing on advisory services.

Like many other technological changes, that has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government now has more reasons to push forward with its Making Tax Digital programme, and that will mean more businesses of all kinds adopting digital solutions to manage their finances and meet their reporting obligations.

The events of the last year also prompted some business owners to look to their accountant for new kinds of advice, from guidance on furlough, grants and loan applications, to support with Brexit-related changes.

But there’s a problem. Business owners still tend to view their accountants as people who are only interested in technical tax matters or structural changes in a business, and not as people they can to go to for broader business advice. They don’t see their accountant as someone who can talk to them about growing their business, or their long-term strategic goals.

For accountants who offer business advice as a service in its own right, or want to start doing so, overcoming that value gap is essential.

This research report looks at how SME challenges align with accountancy services, the value business owners place on advice, and where the main misunderstandings and knowledge gaps lie between accountants and their prospects.

And throughout, we’ve provided practical tips based on our experience, so you can start connecting with clients and demonstrating the value of your advice today.

Melissa Tredinnick
Technology and Innovation Editor, PracticeWeb

About the research

Methodology

We’ve dug into the numbers and found the most interesting statistics to come out of this research, supported by one-on-one interviews that help to illustrate the way SME owners feel about the service they get from their accountants.

This research has been conducted through a combination of quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews with SME owners in the UK.

We ran two separate surveys at the end of 2020: one was sent to 343 small and medium-sized business owners who had an accountant, and the other to 270 SME owners who did not have an accountant.

Both pools of respondents were owners or partners of firms with up to 250 employees.

The results from each survey were then weighted against census data using post-stratification, to ensure they were representative of the general business population.

Following this, we carried out a series of one-to-one research interviews with small business owners at the start of 2021.

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