Date posted: 7/09/2017 7 min read

How female and young business owners are reshaping accounting services

As technology fosters a new breed of business owner, accountants need to provide more quality insights and digital service.

In Brief

  • Women now operate one-third of of all Australian small businesses
  • Most self-employed women use a mobile phone to run their ventures and younger operators use mobile platforms
  • Australia ranks second in the world as the best place for female entrepreneurs

By Nicolette Maury, VP and Country Manager, Intuit Australia

As accounting firms look to the future, it’s important to be aware of changing market trends. Two of the biggest growth segments in the market for accountants at the moment are women business owners and millennials.  

Changing client segments that are growing

In the Intuit 2020 Future of AccountingReport, we mapped out substantial demographic shifts in clients of accountants and bookkeepers across the globe.

Increasing numbers of Australian women are starting their own businesses and research shows this is largely because technology is making this far easier. While this has led to substantial growth, it does mean accountants need to shift the way they interact, engage and provide value to their clients if they are to succeed with these small businesses in Australia. 

Female business owners

According to theAustralian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), there’s been a 46 per cent increase in the number of Aussie women business operators over the past two decades, with 34 per cent (668,670) of all small business now operated by women.

These statistics reflect global developments and are backed by the findings of the Intuit Future of Accounting Report, which reveals women have started small businesses at twice the rate of men over the last decade.  

The rate at which women are starting their own businesses is genuinely exciting for those of us who work to support the small business sector. Australia is in the middle of a substantial decades-long transformation which has matured way past the point of gaining a critical mass.

We are now witnessing a major shift in sentiment towards valuing female business leaders, coupled with a genuine desire to advance self-employed women to create and scale their small business dreams.  

The move toward gender parity is also gaining traction, with bolder conversations driving the change to ensure women progress at the same rate as men in business. Australia ranks second in the world as the best place for female entrepreneurs, according to the Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders scorecard. By growing their businesses, women are having a positive impact on the economy.  

Importantly for accountants and bookkeepers, the flexibility and convenience technology offers has been crucial to the growth in female business owner numbers, enabling women to start businesses and maintain a healthy balance between work and family responsibilities from one device - their mobile phone.   

In Intuit Australia research we conducted earlier this year, surveying 300 business owners, we found more than 80% of the self-employed women surveyed use a mobile phone to run their ventures.

Mobile technology, one of the key tools used by customers to manage their businesses, will not only be used by women looking to maintain flexibility, but also by another growing client segment - millennials. 

Younger business owners

Millennials, also known as Gen Y, young-preneurs or the digital generation, have formed a new wave of business owners which is forcing accountants and other suppliers to rethink how they engage with these customers.

Gen Y are quick adopters of new technology, with our Mobile Nation report revealing that younger small business owners use mobile platforms to save time and increase profits. They are also career and family-oriented, desiring careers which provide a healthy work-life balance.

Key client segments expect their accountants to provide high quality advice and strategic insight

The uptake of mobile technology by younger generations is one of the reasons why we launched our QuickBooks Self-Employed mobile app. Younger generations don’t just use mobiles for consumer and social purposes, but for business, serving as a major tool where they can manage their start-ups. 

Make no mistake, Gen Y business owners expect to interact digitally with their accountants and bookkeepers, as well as use this technology to provide proactive business insights and advice to help grow the business. Through technology, we’re helping deliver these clients entirely new services, many of which were unthinkable a decade ago.

What the changes mean for accountants

The firm of the future is one that does not just provide traditional services such as data entry, bookkeeping and simple tax returns – as automation will deplete their share of workload. Key client segments also expect their accountants to provide high quality advice and strategic insight to help bolster the profits of their businesses.  

To provide advisory services, accountants and bookkeepers must embrace the technology to obtain these insights. The self-employed and mobile savvy business operator is a client whose expectations are growing and demanding increased advisory input from accountants. 

These customers will become more reliant on accountants and bookkeepers for their business insights. Growthwise founder and accountant Steph Hinds reminded accountants of these trends at the QuickBooks Connect conference earlier this year.  

“What many accountants forget is most small business owners didn’t go to business school. Some are following a passion, while some want flexibility and a better work-life balance. The common factor is that many don’t have a deep understanding of how to run a business or the support to do so,” says Hinds. 

According to Intuit’s own research, millennials are more likely to be driven into business by passion for an idea (35 per cent) or a hobby (19 per cent) than any generation before them.   There is a significant opportunity here for providers of advisory services that tech-savvy accountants will be able to tap into. While the ability to start a business with an idea is becoming more accessible, actually growing a company and managing it effectively and efficiently is not possible without solid advice from accountants.