New survey results published by AccountantsWorld shed light on the priorities of accounting firms for 2020, both for themselves and for their clients.
In April 2020, AccountantsWorld launched a nationwide survey to gauge the business outlook for accounting firms and their clients. Almost 400 professionals in public accounting participated in the survey. Owners or partners of accounting firms represented almost 90% of the entire responding audience. 65% of responders work in firms with 5 or fewer employees, 23% were in firms with 6 to 20, and 12% were from larger-staffed firms.
Outlook for clients is somber but (generally) not grave
Accountants are concerned that up to 28% of their clients may not survive the current economic landscape, versus only 5% of their clients that they expect will see growth. Accountants believe that more than half of their SMB clients will struggle to survive or will need to scale down their growth expectations, and barely 10% will emerge with minimal impact to their business.
How about the firm’s performance?
More than half of all respondents expect their firm’s financial performance to decline by the end of 2020, while less than 13% are expecting elevated performance. Interestingly, 36% expect performance to continue at its current pace for the remainder of the year.
Firms focused on helping clients navigate the new reality
An overwhelming majority of accountants are focused on helping their clients navigate and survive the new normal. Many firms are looking for new ways to increase efficiencies, such as upgrading technology and/or cutting costs. At this time, long-term growth is not a primary focus for most firms.
Firms also expressed a clear focus on client retention in 2020. Fewer than a quarter of firms say attracting new clients is their primary goal this year, and even fewer are focusing on growing revenue from existing clients.