COVID-19 has posed considerable challenges for the accounting profession, but it also presents opportunities for growth. By taking advantage of powerful digital tools and strategic partnerships, accountants may be able to build their client base, deepen existing relationships and deliver more value to small businesses.

The impact of COVID-19 on accounting opportunities

To better understand the business impact of COVID-19 on accounting firms, ADP® and Arizent Research/Accounting Today surveyed more than 100 individuals working in public or professional accounting services1. Almost two thirds of respondents said it was challenging to keep pace with their clients’ rapidly evolving needs and nearly 60% said attracting new clients was among their biggest near-term business priorities. Yet, despite these difficulties, accountants have a range of options to help them manage their businesses during unprecedented times and can make choices that will shore up their firms for years to come.

How to take advantage of accounting opportunities

With the right technology, partners and a properly trained staff, accounting firms can capitalize on the momentum of digital services to streamline their operations and provide better support to clients. Here’s how:

  1. Embrace digital solutions

    Implementing and promoting digital services can improve internal and external communication, as well as enhance transparency and convenience for clients. Firms that need assistance transitioning to virtual operations can partner with a payroll and HR service provider, many of whom offer valuable training in effective marketing practices or other practice management skills. ADP, for instance, provides its accounting partners and clients with continuing professional education courses on virtual selling and presentation skills to support them as they forge more durable relationships with their clients.

  2. Expand service offerings

    Adding new capabilities, such as payroll or HR services, means that clients don’t have to look elsewhere as their needs evolve. But expanding into different service areas doesn’t have to mean developing expertise in-house. For many accounting professionals, a more appealing strategy is to partner with a specialist.

    With payroll, for example, ADP delivers services that let accountants determine their desired level of control. They can choose to outsource payroll entirely through a shared revenue model for referrals or process it themselves using cloud-based software designed to meet their needs.

    ADP also works with accountants to provide small businesses with turnkey HR solutions that may allow them to implement best practices in cost-effective and efficient ways. At the same time, this arrangement helps professional accounting firms mitigate the risks and operational challenges that sometimes arise when offering HR services.

  3. Enlarge the trusted advisor role

    Accountants that position themselves as not just a tax planning resource, but also a trusted advisor, may reap the benefits of stickier client relationships and revenue growth and set themselves up for an expanded client base. Advisory services can include financial forecasting, budgeting and cash flow guidance, or assistance with loan programs. Quality, however, remains important, so before expanding their role, accountants should carefully consider whether it’s better to create new offerings themselves or partner with other service providers.

About ADP’s accountant program

ADP works with forward-thinking accounting professionals who value being essential to their clients’ success. We offer the most flexible partner models powered by quick and easy insights from the most complete set of solutions for firms and their clients – all backed by dedicated expert support with a human touch. Accountants also receive anytime access to their authorized client data, seamless general ledger integration and complimentary practice tools with our award-winning Accountant Connect™ platform.

1Arizent Research/Accounting Today conducted an online survey among accounting professionals in October 2020. A total of 101 individuals who work at firms offering public accounting and/or professional accounting services for small businesses (150 employees and under) responded.