Two ways to gain a competitive advantage

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

By Kreston CEO, Liza Robbins.

Petra Uylen’s client had a problem.

They needed a tax advisor, an accountant and a lawyer in Brussels the very next day. Could she arrange it?

Petra, of Kreston Grip in the Netherlands, knew that the following day was a national holiday in Belgium. Everything was going to be closed.

The client was asking the impossible.

Yet, 24 hours later, they were meeting the professionals they needed in an office in Brussels.

For Petra, it wasn’t even too difficult to arrange. All she had to do was pick up the phone to her contact at the Kreston member firm in Belgium. As chair of Kreston’s International Tax group, she knew them well.

“My clients were surprised and delighted it was possible,” she says, especially as, driving through Belgium that morning, they had seen that no other business was open.

“They were also very happy with the quality of the people.”

There is a key lesson here for accounting firms that want to grow.

It is no secret that we operate in a very competitive market, one where it is increasingly difficult to differentiate ourselves and operate profitably.

The traditional core services we offer – audit and accounting – are becoming commoditised, as technological innovation changes the way our business is conducted.

It is difficult to stand out, and to show why your high-quality independent audit is any more valuable than your competitors’.

You probably come across potential clients talking about wanting quality, but then buying on price, all the time. Others, who have been with you for several years, may start to expect a discount.

But these are relatively low-margin services to begin with. There is a limit to how much pressure prices can come under!

To thrive and to grow, then, we need to find new ways of adding value for our clients, so we can stand out and charge more. And we need to find new avenues for growth, so we can move away from compliance services.

For many firms, the answer has been a move towards advisory. But when everyone is doing this, it is not enough.

Firms like Petra’s have two advantages, which we can all learn from.
Generalist accountancy firms are extremely common. But Petra has developed a specialism in international tax, which helps her stand out.

Clients who need those specific services have a good reason to pick Kreston Grip over their competition.

They know that there are people in Kreston Grip with specialist knowledge that others do not have, which they need and which they are willing to pay for.

When you stay a generalist, you might believe you can service a wider group of clients. But actually it is limiting, because you do not hold special appeal to anyone.

The other advantage is that Petra sees Kreston Grip in the Netherlands as part of a global team.

For her, the tax specialists in the other member firms are not part a different firm. They are an extension of her own office.

You see, sometimes specialist teams are hard to grow in-house. You may not have enough people or enough knowledge, especially when starting out.

But that is the advantage of belonging to Kreston. You have colleagues with specialist knowledge all over the world, with whom you can collaborate and share information, experience and tools.

Not only does this allow you to quickly reposition your firm, it is a far more convincing proposition for your clients, who have access to the best expertise available, wherever it is in the world.

Kreston Grip shouts about their international presence to their clients, displaying all the Kreston offices on a big map on their wall and mentioning it frequently, in their welcome pack to new clients and other communications. It is an important selling point.

Here at Kreston, we have experts who work together in many specialist areas, from international tax to sales and marketing, cybersecurity, corporate finance, transfer pricing and more.

If you would like to get involved in any of these areas, hit ‘reply’ to talk to me about how you can take advantage of this valuable opportunity.

And if you are already involved, I encourage you to make full use of all your network has to offer! Send a partner to our conferences to meet your peers and build up your international contacts.

As Petra’s story shows, you never know when they might save the day….


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