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The global marketplace is highly interconnected, meaning that businesses in all countries are equally susceptible to the tides of change. During the economic slump of 2008, accounting firms of all sizes had to downsize, put planned fee increases on hold, or find creative new ways to generate additional revenue in order to maintain sensible margins. Recently, the effects of China’s economic wobble have been felt far and wide, with many African currencies reacting negatively to events on the Beijing market.

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In this context, it is prudent for firms to look beyond common practices to expand their client offerings as a means of boosting revenue growth and staying ahead in a challenging market spaces. Forrester Research indicates that the world has entered a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will need to reinvent themselves to better understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. In this era, firms that adopt an innovative approach will be rewarded with greater market share.

In a saturated market, differentiation is essential

Finding a niche market and tapping into it is an excellent way to increase revenue. Businesses can focus on one sector, such as the food and beverage industry, and offer services that go above and beyond their standard packages. As Sally Glick, CMO at Sobel & Co, points out in a thought-provoking article on Moneyweb , firms that direct their attention to restaurants or construction contractors could provide advice on ways to improve margins, as well as industry trends and changes to regulations, in addition to simply providing financial statements and tax returns. Another suggestion made in the article is building expertise in areas such as tax planning, forensics and auditing for specific industries, as this can help firms establish themselves in smaller, more accessible segments of the market.

Forward-thinking businesses need to embrace technology

Accounting and audit firms need to integrate technology into their practices and take advantage of its value-adding potential for clients. With next-generation networking infrastructure in place, it is now affordable for small businesses to make use of cloud computing. A decade ago, licensing models were complicated and pricey, but today’s hosted business applications are available with per-user pricing structures. These developments mean that small practices are able to make waves in their markets while keeping costs down.

Seek solutions that meet short and long-term needs

Producers of well-known accounting software packages such as Sage, Intuit and Xero agree that millennial firms will increasingly introduce high-tech solutions that will challenge practices to push the boundaries of their product and service offerings. This includes revising the way you run your own practice, with solutions that offer never-before-seen levels of scalability. A study conducted for the American Institute of Chartered Accountants (AICPA) revealed that 80% of CPAs believe their role will change substantially in the next 10 years, with consulting, risk management and advisory services becoming more prominent parts of their business practice. This will be facilitated by the technology that firms choose to engage with.

New challenges, new opportunities

Firms are no longer operating within predictable environments with little competition. Companies like law firms are increasingly offering tax and auditing functions to clients in order to reposition themselves in a changing market. Technological advancements are also forcing firms to reassess their strategies and develop new ways of remaining competitive in uncertain economic climates. But for businesses that are ready for the future, these challenges can be seen as opportunities to craft a compelling competitive advantage.

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