Date posted: 9/09/2019 5 min read

Can software take the friction out of client relationships?

Guy Pearson CA sees the move to fixed-fee billing as a big chance for CAs to automate client admin and avoid bill disputes.

In Brief

  • Guy Pearson CA developed Practice Ignition software in response to his own experience dealing with inefficiencies in his accounting business.
  • Fixed-fee services pave the way to automate client engagement, proposal and payment documents, cutting down on time spent on administration.
  • Pearson says accountants need to be out in front with technology and use it as an enabler for their services.

By Jessica Sier

Guy Pearson CA knew enough about technology to be dangerous but not enough to code the software himself.

“I figured out that data flows were, effectively, plumbing,” says Pearson of his journey from accountant to start-up entrepreneur. “If you want this information to flow to this system, how do you make it connect? Which systems need to talk to each other? I could work that part out, but the coding part is another skill entirely.”

Pearson’s move to the software industry, which saw him co-found Practice Ignition in 2013, was a result of his struggle to increase efficiencies in his own accounting business.

“I figured out that data flows were, effectively, plumbing.”
Guy Pearson CA, Practice Ignition

“The business model for accounting was traditionally time plus materials,” he says. “Everything was based on an hour’s work. There was no incentive to become more efficient, because you got paid for every minute you spent trying to figure out a problem.”

However, Pearson saw demand for a fixed-fee service emerging. The ageing population, which had little to no fixed income, wanted certainty on how much they would be expected to pay, and the monthly costs of running cloud software were spawning fixed-fee services in a host of other industries.

“I wanted to have a proposal for the scope of work presented and accepted, then my workflow and invoicing automated,” he says, highlighting that this software capability existed in fragments for the chain but rarely altogether.

Pearson borrowed some money from the bank, found a developer in co-founder Dane Thomas, then set to work building Practice Ignition. But he soon found a block in the mindset of the accountants he was pitching to.

“There’s this idea that every accounting client is different and there’s no way they could even remotely be the same,” he says. “How could you build a piece of software for everyone? I had to get my head around ‘slow and steady’ as the best way to educate and get people on board.”

Given that technology permeates all industries, Pearson is adamant that accountants need to get out in front.

“Software developers can build most of what we do anyway,” he says, pointing to the emergence of Pilot, Bench and QuickBooks Live. “So software companies will begin hiring accountants and paying them more to get the lifetime value out of the software and services. You have to use technology as an enabler now or you’ll miss the boat.”

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CA Catalyst

CA Catalyst is a strategic program by CA ANZ designed to help chartered accountants embrace technology and innovation in order to stay relevant. CAs can access practical resources and tools, start-up hub experiences, local events and exposure to new innovations and technology.

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