As we head towards 2022, it’s important to make sure that your SME clients have the best possible financial foundations in place for the new year. Despite the challenging ups and downs of recent times, there’s an air of cautious optimism among the UK’s business owners. And as a trusted and valued adviser, your firm is in a great position to help drive this new-found sense of positivity. So, what can you do to make your small business clients’ lives easier?

In this month’s post, we look at five key ways to reduce the admin workload, put clients in control of their numbers and set the financial foundations for a more prosperous new year.

1. If you can automate it, automate it!

One of the biggest areas where you can make a difference is via automation. 31% of medium-sized businesses don’t use software to streamline their admin at all, despite spending an hour a week on admin tasks. A quick review of the key financial admin tasks in your client’s business can quickly reveal opportunities for using software tools and automation.

For example:

  • Automate the bookkeeping – apps like Dext Prepare and Auto Entry quickly scan and digitise receipts, bills and e-invoices, reducing time-consuming bookkeeping data entry.
  • Automate payments – payment gateways like PayPal or GoCardless make it easier for clients to accept payments and automatically reconcile these with their accounts.
  • Automate bank reconciliation – Using a cloud accounting platform like Xero or QuickBooks, the whole bank reconciliation process can be automated, with the software using machine learning to automatically complete the reconciliation process.

2. Offer onboarding and training to improve efficiency

When clients don’t stick to your firm’s agreed procedures, things can get messy. Transactions can be wrongly coded, VAT can be applied at the wrong rate and deadlines for payroll sign-off can be missed. And all of these setbacks can impact on the efficiency of the client’s finances.

The answer is to onboard your clients effectively and to offer training that gets them up to speed with your practice processes.

Help them understand their monthly bookkeeping and year-end deadlines, so everything gets completed on time. And get them up to speed with the ins and outs of their cloud accounting software and app stack. With a better understanding of the tech, they can make use of all the time-saving and reporting functionality that’s available.

3. Make your own practice run like clockwork

If you and your practice staff are overworked and disorganised, you won’t have enough free time to work with your SME clients effectively. Getting the practice organised and running smoothly is an important step in offering a more valuable and productive end service.

Make the most of the available practice management and workflow tools, like Senta and Accountancy Manager and others. These practice tools can provide a clear breadcrumb trail of client tasks, deadlines and work in progress (WIP), keeping you in control of workloads.

This could include:

  • Seeing when clients have key compliance deadlines and helping you meet them
  • Sending out automated notifications and reminders to clients
  • Remaining on top of the monthly tasks and WIP for each and every client.

4. Talk to clients about their 2022 goals and challenges

Our latest business insight report, At The Crossroads, shows that the UK’s SMEs are feeling positive about the coming year. 63% of SMEs expect their businesses to grow over the next three years. And 50% of SMEs are confident that customer demand, as well as turnover, will increase in 6 to 12 months. In this air of positivity, your role as an adviser will be invaluable.

The more you know about your small business clients’ aspirations for the coming year, the easier it becomes to give them meaningful advice and support. Make sure you’ve got a catch-up in the diary before the end of 2021, and get yourself fully up to speed with the company’s situation.

Here are a few ideas for key questions to ask:

  • What’s your key goal for 2022? What does the business need to achieve and why?
  • Do you have growth plans for the next 12 months? If so, what are these growth goals?
  • Do you plan to pivot or diversify into a new market in 2022?
  • Are you dealing with any issues or threats that will affect you operationally in 2022?
  • Is the business well funded at present, or is there a need for external funding?

5. Offer deeper insights around funding and finance

For your small business clients to bankroll their growth plans and bring in new customers, they’re more than likely going to need a cash injection. According to our recent survey, 63% of SMEs believe prudent borrowing could help them fund their growth. So, a key area where you can add value will be in offering detailed funding advice, and opening up new routes to that finance.

The Recovery Loan Scheme is still available for companies that were adversely affected by Covid. Loans of between £50,000 and £350,000 are available directly via MarketFinance for eligible UK companies, so the RLS is well worth exploring as an attractive route to borrowing.

Check out our finance options and start making a difference to your clients’ financial future.