For Manufacturers And Their Accountants, Moving Beyond Taxes

Manufacturers need to put their data deluge into context to generate profits. Small accounting firms need to branch out beyond tax preparation. Here’s how the twain shall meet through online education, via Exact and QB Express.

In business, knowledge is everything. Knowledge of where products are at any given time, when funds are leaving accounts and when they are coming in and where salespeople should be prospecting for new clients — the deluge of data is a constant one.

But knowledge without perspective is useless, and it’s no surprise that smaller firms tend to rely on at least some sort of outside counsel to help provide strategy and direction, both short- and long-term.

That’s where consulting comes in and perhaps most readily through accounting services, reconciling data into, of course, tax preparatory services on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis.

But accountants face a bit of a conundrum. Their services are becoming commoditized, and with back-office functions increasingly becoming automated, they must find ways to bring new revenue streams from existing and new clients.

To that end, Exact, which provides cloud-based business software to SMBs, has partnered with QB Express, a nationwide network of accounting firms providing QuickBooks training, to debut an educational program for accountants that are part of the QB Express roster of accountants serving manufacturing firms.

The initiative is focused on bringing smaller accounting firms up to speed on the various business needs that are specific to manufacturing and extending services that can be offered to those clients.

The two companies announced last week the debut of the Profit Improvement Process for Manufacturers, an educational module available online that takes accountants through the particulars of manufacturing firms so that those accounting firms can expand and offer consulting services. That, of course, can translate into additional revenue streams.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Dave Lechleitner, Exact product marketing principal, and Kae Williams, Exact VP of marketing, said that the partnership with QB is a natural recognition of the need for smaller firms to find new growth avenues.

“Very often, what we’ve heard from accounting firms,” said Lechleitner, speaking of the feedback from member firms of the association, is a desire to “move beyond financial advice.” While CPAs may be experts in accounting, the executive continued, they might not know where to start in an expanded advisory capacity, especially in reference to the issues that are of upmost importance to manufacturers.

Through the module, explained Williams and Lechleitner, accounting firms are introduced and schooled in the issues that are specific to manufacturers, “such as tracking inventory turns and quality control issues and sourcing raw materials,” said Lechleitner. Speaking of the educational module, he continued, “this is not a one-and-done approach. Managing a business like this can be quite complex.” Thus, once accountants go through the educational module, they are able to return to their manufacturing clients on a monthly basis and help shape best practices, up and down the supply chain.

Once moving through the module, said Williams — who noted that the course takes between 60 and 90 days to complete — and Lechleitner, accountants are able to offer what the latter termed a “high-level diagnosis” to their manufacturing clients, with an eye on where process improvements can be made.

As such, continued Lechleitner, smaller accounting firms can help fill a niche that is not traditionally filled by larger, Big Four accounting firms. The bigger firms, he added, tend to offer consulting services but not the QuickBooks and straight-ahead accounting services that are the purview of smaller firms. The roster of services that can be offered through completion of the module range from helping to track work in process efficiently to helping generate quotes that will be profitable.