As the father of five boys, I am constantly surrounded by all things Star Wars and Marvel’s Avengers. Quarantine has only exacerbated this superhero situation to the point that I very well could be transforming into a member of the Rebel Alliance. With these otherworldly themes and storylines permanently swirling around my head, I can’t help but draw some parallels in how I view accounting, finance and entrepreneurship.
For much of our country’s history, small-business entrepreneurs (SBEs) have been the heroes driving much of the incredible success we have experienced. These folks have the ideas and zeal to change industries, solve problems and make the world a better place. But just like the heroes found in blockbuster movies, these inspiring folks don’t go it alone. For all of human existence, both real and fictional heroes have relied on guides to assist on their epic journeys toward a better world. Whether a mentor, a business partner or a service provider, SBEs need guides to show them the path, warn of unforeseen dangers, and provide insights from their own experiences and the experiences they’ve witnessed in guiding others.
The need for a guide is particularly true in times of hardship. When times are good, heroes can go on mostly on their own. Guides are useful, but not critical. But when times are tough and the challenges faced seem insurmountable, guides are essential to the success of the journey.
Why am I saying all of this? Well, in the face of Covid-19, economic shutdowns, plummeting GDP and all of the other twists and turns of 2020, small-business entrepreneurs — the heroes of the economy — are in the midst of one of most challenging times many of us have ever faced. They need guides now more than ever.
To bring it back to my ever-present Star Wars mindset: Small-business entrepreneurs are the Luke Skywalkers of our economy. They need an experienced Yoda now more than ever.
The ideal Yoda for an SBE is their accountant. For business owners, 2020 might feel a lot like a real-world destruction of Alderaan. With the right approach, accountants can give their clients a New Hope. As we head into the rest of the year and attempt to prepare for an uncertain future, become an invaluable guide by doing the following for your heroes:
Be their small-business financial consultant.
Instead of simply focusing on spreadsheets and book balancing, accounting professionals must now act as their clients’ financial consultant. Much like Yoda with Luke, it’s critical that you take an individual interest in each client. Spend time with them. Understand their goals. You have access to the ins and outs of their business, so leverage that wisdom to become a strategic partner who guides them toward success. With this approach, your clients may soon find that they don’t want to embark on any journey without you by their side.
Be an industry expert.
Yoda understood everything about what Luke Skywalker would face. This understanding was shaped by his own experiences. After nearly two decades in the accounting industry, I’ve discovered that a similar principle applies to how accounting professionals can provide the most value to our clients. Yoda didn’t try to learn about becoming a Stormtrooper or an X-Wing mechanic. He focused his energy on becoming an expert Jedi and sharing that wisdom with others like Luke. Similarly in accounting, I remain firmly convinced that the smaller your industry/vertical/niche, the more focused your expertise will be and, ultimately, the more value you will provide to your clients.
Industry expertise also arms you with deeper data and knowledge of critical business drivers so you can better advise your clients on how to prepare for the future.
Use technology to your advantage.
Yoda was a master of the force because he combined his own personal touch with the right tools. Whether a lightsaber or levitation, Yoda understood which “tools” could take his innate skills to the next level, and how to use this combination of expertise and “technology” to better guide his hero. Much like the training Yoda provided to Luke on Dagobah, accountants should harness the right tools to help their clients “master the force” and navigate the future. You don’t have to make your books levitate, but there are tools that can help you provide better strategic guidance. Accounting automation technology can help you shift valuable time from basic data entry toward financial consultation. Cloud-based technology enables you to stay up-to-date especially in an increasingly virtual business environment. Tools that offer industry benchmarks and reporting can help you see trends and guide your clients toward the most successful path.
Just like the best superhero movies, an epic journey with a successful ending is something for which all small-business entrepreneurs strive. As these heroes continue to navigate incalculable challenges, we the accountants need to rise to the occasion and become the guide our clients need to make the journey of 2020 an incredible success.