Should smaller firms be worried?

In accountingWEB, Nick Huber & Rachael Power reported last week that KPMG has set its sights on the small-business market with the launch of a cloud accounting service for SMEs. The cloud-based service, which cost the firm £40m in investment and was developed with Xero, includes accounts preparation, bookkeeping, payroll, VAT and corporate tax returns.

The partnership between Xero and KPMG was announced last March and its New Zealand branch has also recently been awarded ‘platinum partner’ status.

According to a KPMG spokesperson, Xero will be very much linked into the package, combining their already existing software with parts the Big Four firm built in-house “to bolt on and widen the offering”.

The new service puts KPMG in competition with smaller accounting firms and software suppliers such as Sage One. It costs £150 per month or more and can also include advice from KPMG staff. Simon Collins, KPMG’s UK chairman, said the firm wants to be the “clear choice” for all privately-owned businesses.

Not to be outdone by KPMG, PwC has come up with a different strategy to get small to medium-sized clients: An agreement between PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and online debt market MarketInvoice, announced last week plans to give businesses extra borrowing options.

If your firm is a law firm, don’t just sit there and say “this won’t apply to us”. It will: KPMG announced at the beginning of the month that it had become the first ‘Big Four’ professional services firm to be awarded an Alternative Business Structure (“ABS”) licence by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority to operate on a multi-disciplinary practice basis – this allows the firm to deliver an expanded range of focused integrated legal services complementary to its existing business.

A blueprint for the modern accountancy firm

From accountingWEB: At the 2020 Group annual conference earlier this month, US chairman Chris Frederiksen [pictured] spoke about how to build a modern accountancy firm. Based on 2020’s research and Frederiksen’s own experience of firms around the world, he came up with five elements common to modern, profitable firms.

“We are now in a paradigm shift, as we have never seen it before,” he said, referring to finance technology innovations such as Apple Pay. Most accountants are following the ‘Red Queen’ concept and running as fast as you can just to stay where you are at the moment.”

According to Frederiksen, modern, profitable firms typically specialise in a particular industry or product. In addition, it knows its purpose or ‘Why’ and doesn’t try to be all things to all people.  “You don’t see Starbucks selling Coke,” he said, “because that isn’t who they are or what they believe in.”

With 90% of what the profession does becoming largely commoditised by technology that lets people to do themselves, firms need to diversify and adapt to survive. Once the firm has hammered out its why, what it will focus on and what industry and area it will specialise in, it can then stop taking in “whatever rolls in the door”.

Focus draws on three things, said Frederiksen: passion that you can transfer to your clients; being darn good at what you do; and figuring out a way of working that’s very profitable.
[Comment: what Chris doesn’t say is what you have to do when heavyweights such as KPMG and PwC start to infiltrate your territory.]

Marketing ideas from Marketing Profs

More marketing ideas and tips have been published by Marketing Profs:

Isaac Asimov Asks, “How Do People Get New Ideas?”

From MIT Technology Review, last week: Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Born in Russia, he made his home in the US and died aged 72 in 1992. Now, published for the first time, is a 1959 Essay by Isaac Asimov in MIT Technology Review at the link below. It covers the creative process, the nature of creative people, and environments that promote creativity.

Microsoft Building Third-Party Publisher Ad Network

From Search Marketing Daily, by Laurie Sullivan: Microsoft has plans to build out a third-party ad publisher network, similar to Google AdSense, placing premium high-quality ads on publisher sites supported by Bing and Bing Ads.   The brands want to augment existing desktop and mobile search traffic. David Pann, GM for the search network at Microsoft, said the company already has the technology to make it happen.
The service would support publishers that wanted an option other than Google to drive organic search traffic to their sites. Bing was never really in the business to compete for that publishing search ad volume.

Do you know these 29 Social Media Analytics Terms?

From Smart Brief: You can download this FREE guide to brush up on the key terminology for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

In addition to detailed definitions, you’ll also learn best practices and gain valuable insights from some of the leading pros in the industry.
Download now from: go.unmetric.com/29-must-know-terms-for-every-social-media-analyst

The Most Ridiculous Excuses For Skipping Work

Forbes report that for the last 10 years, job listing site CareerBuilder has put out a list it calls “The Most Unbelievable Excuses for Calling in Sick.”

Last year an employee said he couldn’t come in because his false teeth flew out the window while he was driving down the highway. Another claimed that someone had glued her windows and doors shut so she couldn’t get out of her house. This year the excuses include a worker who said he felt he had to stay at a casino when he had money left after a gambling weekend. Then there was the employee who said she couldn’t come in because she had woken up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it.  This year’s excuses were gathered through a Harris Poll that ran from 11 August to 5 September, among 3,000 workers and 2,000 hiring managers.
Read the complete excuse list, here.

Accountants: Managing your Xero clients – Step 8: Marketing your practice

From AccountancyAGE Insight: In this eight-part series, the briefings have guided you through the benefits of using Xero, the training, learning and support we provide and how Xero helps you increase your client engagement and satisfaction – as well as improving your overall practice efficiency.

In Step 8, the FREE briefing runs through all eight steps to summarise how you can manage your Xero clients and really work on improving your client engagement and satisfaction.
Download from here.

UK: PwC and MarketInvoice to give small firms investment boost

In City A.M., Chris Papadopoullos reported that an agreement between PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and online debt market MarketInvoice, announced today, plans to give businesses extra borrowing options. PwC will inform its clients about MarketInvoice’s financing services and the online firm will refer its clients to the PwC My Financepartner team – accountants who specialise in helping early- to mid-stage firms.

MarketInvoice provides an online platform where firms can sell their invoices to investors. The firm then owes the investor, but gains the cash, which it can use to pay immediate debts. The investor also receives interest payments.

Email is alive and kicking

183 billion emails sent per day, 4.2 billion email accounts worldwide, 6% growth rate—it’s safe to say that email is here to stay.
Source: www.marketingprofsu.com

Asking the Right Questions: How to Evaluate Marketing Automation

From Marketo: If you’re considering a marketing automation solution, you’re probably familiar with the benefits: incredible productivity, targeted engagement, alignment with sales, and serious insight into what’s working—and insight into what isn’t.

But as you evaluate solutions for your business, you’ll need to consider the capabilities that matter most to your success. This guide uses extensive research from David Raab Associates and VentureBeat to highlight the practices satisfied marketing automation users have in common.

Download the FREE Asking the Right Questions: Evaluating Marketing Automation eBook, to find out:

  • What satisfied marketing automation users have in common
  • How various features and capabilities affect marketing productivity, campaign effectiveness, marketing/sales alignment, and reporting
  • How to amplify the value of your marketing automation

Read more, here.

The Best-Performing CEOs in the World

Who are the best-performing CEOs?  Adi Ignatius in Harvard Business Review (November 2014) says the knock on most business leaders is that they don’t take the long view—that they’re fixated on achieving short-term goals to lift their pay.  So which global CEOs actually delivered solid results over the long run? HBR’s 2014 list of top performers provides an objective answer.
You can find out who they are at: hbr.org/2014/11/the-best-performing-ceos-in-the-world

5 Simple Steps for Creating ViralSocial Content

[24 October 2014, Simply Measured] Posted 22 October, By Kevin Shively: As social media marketers, we’re constantly reaching for that next piece of “viral” content. That next blog post, photo, infographic, Tweet, promotion, video, or offer that gets shared like wildfire across the web.

The problem is that in our quest to create the new hotness, we don’t always do our homework.
In order to make this a more tangible lesson, the author used Simply Measured’s own Twitter account as an example, analysing Q3 of 2014 as a way to identify some possible viral topics, content types, and most importantly, potential.
This is an interesting story, well worth reading: simplymeasured.com/blog/2014/10/22/5-steps-for-creating-viral-social-content/

Working for yourself: maintaining focus, building resilience

From ICAEW:  One of the seminars at September’s Setting Up in Practice event (3 September 2014), hosted by Olivia Landsberg, was Working for yourself: maintaining focus, building resilience.

This article provides the key ideas for those who weren’t able to attend.

The event explored 3 key subject areas:

  • reframing what marketing means to you;
  • scheduling time for “important but not urgent” tasks; and
  • creating your own informal advisory board.

Marketing, regulatory issues and work-life balance are common concerns for members. The context for the seminar was to regard these not as problems but as a way of thinking. A resilient mind comes from being aware of as well as challenging our assumptions and understanding that they are different from facts.
Read more here.

Twitter Introduces App Platform Fabric In Bid For More Mobile Dollars, Data

From Adage, By Mike Bergen: Twitter is beefing up its mobile presence, making a move for more ad dollars and data from handheld devices. On Wednesday, the social media company introduced Fabric, a mobile-app platform meant to lure more developers to its suite of products. The move pits Twitter against rival ad-sellers Facebook, Google and Yahoo, which all host competing products.

CEO Dick Costolo introduced Fabric as “the future of mobile software development” at Flight, Twitter’s inaugural mobile developer conference in San Francisco. “[It’s] a future that is built on a collection of fully integrated end-to-end services,” he said, speaking to a room of over one thousand developers. “It is entirely about you and your users, not us.”

At the 22 October conference, Twitter also unmasked ‘Digits,’ a tool within Fabric to authenticate mobile-app users via telephone numbers. Its first corporate partner is McDonald’s. The fast-food giant will use Digits for all of its native apps, including Surprise Alarm, its customer-engagement app.

Digits, a two-step, so-called “white-label” log-in, will roll out across 216 countries, in 28 languages. Tying login info to phone numbers, rather than email addresses, could also be more lucrative in ramping up active users globally, where Twitter is seeing its fastest growth.
Read more here.

Microsoft ditching the Nokia name on smartphones

BBC News reports that Microsoft is ditching the Nokia brand name from new devices, less than a year after acquiring the Finnish mobile firm. New Nokia Lumia smartphones will instead be known as Microsoft Lumia, the company said. Nokia’s non-mobile division, which is not owned by Microsoft, will continue to use the name.

The mobile operation was bought by Microsoft in April in a deal worth $7.2bn (£4.6bn). Since then, Microsoft has quietly shifted away from the Nokia brand.

A post on Nokia France’s Facebook page confirmed the branding shift. The renaming will roll out globally in due course, Microsoft has said. The announcement comes despite Microsoft agreeing to a 10-year deal to use the Nokia name on mobile products.

Can Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets usurp the business notebook?

From SmartCompany.com.au, David Hancock writes: If you need to stay productive when you’re away from your desk, Microsoft’s latest “hybrid” tablet/notebook could be the gadget you’ve been looking for.The boom in portable devices makes it easier to stay on top of things while you’re out and about, but remaining productive while you’re on the road is always a balance between portability and usability. Apple and Android tablets hit the sweet spot for some people, but life becomes more complicated if you’re not prepared to sacrifice a physical keyboard and traditional desktop applications.

This is where Microsoft’s Surface Pro range comes to the fore, especially if you’re already using Office 365 and are wedded to the Microsoft ecosystem. With a slick detectable keyboard, the Pro can easily switch from tablet to notebook and back again.

PayPal launches loan service for SMEs

BM Magazine reports that PayPal [Boss David Marcus pictured] has introduced Working Capital, a new loan product which promises eligible merchants a tailored grant loan within minutes of request. Whilst not in the UK yet, Australia is the first market outside the United States to receive the service, we will see the new service during 2015.

PayPal customer experience and solutions director, Kareem Al-Bassam, said that Australia was chosen due to demand from SMEs for wider choice of financing options, but expected the UK to be the next territory

SMEs that want to take up the new service will complete a four-step application process; eligibility can be checked by PayPal merchants which have held an account for at least 12 months via the provider’s web site.

Marketing Profs: Smart thinking… pass it on

From Marketing Profs: Lots of goodies here.  Check out the featured FREE whitepapers listed below for the latest research and how-to marketing guidance. Also, be sure to keep your eye out for next month’s selections.

Facebook Analytics: The Complete Guide to Facebook Analytics
Learn how to use your brand’s Facebook data to fully analyze your – and your competitors’ – activity on Facebook, and inform your strategy
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Facebook Advertising: The Path to 1:1 Marketing Success
Transform segment-driven, offer-based marketing campaigns into personalized 1:1 customer journeys by building a 1:1 customer journey strategy.

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Metrics: 10 Metrics that close the gap between marketing and sales
Marketing & Sales should be like peas in a pod, but too often they’re misaligned and misunderstood. These metrics help close the gap.

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Content Marketing: 10 Ways to Improve Your Content Marketing
Increase your website & intranet ROI – enhance your content marketing & distribution strategies. Read Chasing Engagement: Part 1

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Customer Experience: [Whitepaper] Guiding the customer journey
Channel-hopping customers? Optimize their buying journey online and offline. Offer individual relevancy and boost conversion by up to 35-40%

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Customer Satisfaction: You have their NPS® score…now what?
Measuring your customers’ satisfaction is great place to start, but unfortunately too many companies stop there. Find out what you can do next.

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Free eBook: The Changing Landscape of B2B eCommerce

From Magento:  For years, eCommerce was a B2C game—a channel best suited for consumer brands and retail transactions. Several recent studies and some major shifts in buyer behaviour, however, paint a different picture. This ebook will explore the consumerisation of B2B eCommerce and the massive opportunity for B2B companies that get it right.

Audit Exemption: Increased threshold in 2015

FREE from AccountancyAGE Insight: In line with the EU Accounting Directive it is likely that the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills will propose an increase in the audit exemption thresholds during 2015. Almost 100 audit professionals took part in the Wolters Kluwer survey to assess the likely impact of this change.  You can read an analysis and commentary of the results in this FREE paper.

Passed by the European Parliament in June 2013, the Directive included increases in the maximum thresholds that member countries can adopt for the definition of small companies and audit exemption.

What impact will this have on audit professionals in the UK? Will fee income from audit work decline? What can be done to make up the shortfall? How do practices plan on communicating with their clients?
Read this FREE report to find out.

UK-Tax: Draft clauses to be published on 10 December 2014

From ICAEW Tax Faculty: Draft clauses to be included in the Finance Bill 2015 will be published on 10 December 2014. These will be accompanied by responses to the earlier policy consultations, explanatory notes, tax information and impact notes and other relevant documents.

The consultation on the draft legislation will be open until 4 February 2015.

Accountancy Age Insight

From AccountancyAGE Insight: The BI Survey 14 examines BI product selection and usage among users in areas including business benefits, costs, proportion of employees using the product, competitiveness, recommendation, innovation, performance, customer satisfaction and agility.

The BI Survey 14 features:

  • A comparison between different types of BI tools based on how customers say they use the products.
  • KPI dashboards packed with concise information, which can be absorbed at a glance.
  • Who the leading reporting vendors are in terms of business benefits, project success, price-to-value perception, big data analytics and much more…

View the FREE Briefing here.

Martin Pollins

Martin Pollins

Managing Director at Bizezia
Martin Pollins is a Chartered Accountant with wide experience in corporate finance and business management. He holds a number of directorships and has served on the boards of several companies, including those listed on the London Stock Exchange, AIM and OFEX.

He was a Council member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales from 1988 to 1996.

Martin Pollins ran his own firm based in Sussex and was the first Accountancy firm in the UK to advertise on television and Martin went on to create and launch the CharterGroup Partnership (the UK's first Accountancy network) and then LawGroup UK (one of the largest networks of lawyers in the country).

Martin started work on the Bizezia concept in 1996, developing the broad range of information resources and products over the past 18 years.
Martin Pollins
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