ACCOUNTING WEEKLY

Accountants Who See Problems as Opportunities

We spoke to Johann van der Merwe and Nadine Augustine, the founders of Ecomm Accountants. Their company was an early adopter in the cloud accounting space and constantly views challenges as a chance to innovate.

Opportunity 1: Accounting has too much paperwork

“Accounting was really a sh*t job, sorry for the word, until we moved onto cloud based systems,” says Johann van der Merwe, co-founder of Ecomm Accountants. “It was always a battle. There was always a backlog in terms of trying to fix stuff.”

An early adopter of cloud accounting back in 2013, Ecomm Accountants uses software that allows clients to take photos of their receipts and eliminates paper copies of invoices.

“We get clients to take pictures of their petrol and telephone entertainment bills throughout the year. So when we do their taxes annually or even monthly, everything is in our inbox and integrates directly with the accounting software,” explains co-founder Nadine Augustine.

“We’ve had a few occasions where our offices were broken into, and we were wiped out of basically all our laptops and computers and everything,” says Augustine. “Because everything was on the cloud, we were able to basically be up and running again within two to three days.”

“We were very glad to have made the move to the cloud so early. If we hadn’t, the loss could have been quite drastic.”

Opportunity 2: Clients are stuck in their ways

“We actually made the decision to say that if a client was not willing to move over to the cloud (in 2013), that we were not willing to work with them, says Augustine. “We don’t price on time. We are more value-based and use fixed fee pricing. So spending more time with the client is not going to be beneficial for us.”

Although there was some resistance, Augustine emphasises that communicating is key. “I think it’s all about the conversations, and usually, clients benefit. We’re are all about advisory and conversations.”

The selective approach to clients also extends to the industries Ecomm Accountants targets. “We’ve also decided to specialise in certain industries. We don’t generally take on every single client,” says Augustine “This helps us give better advice and better insights on a client’s business and help them grow.”

Opportunity 3: No one wants to sit in a long line

“At the beginning, it was actually more work for you as an accountant to go and register a company for someone because we had to drive into town to go to the CIPC to register,” says Augustine.

“Now the online systems have evolved. We can offer those solutions to clients, and we’ve created revenue streams from it.” Ecomm Accountants has a website, registryhub.co.za, which walks clients through the process of registering a company by collecting the necessary documents and information.

This online platform allows for more efficient business registration instead of the traditional approach of exchanging emails. “If this person is filling in their details in a step by step manner using the online form, registration can be done within 24 hours. Whereas if we have a conversation by email. It can take much longer just for that correspondence.”

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