What makes a successful cloud consultant?
By Michelle Nicol
02 March 2018
Robert King has gone from accountant to cloud integration consultant with his company Integration Kings. Now achieving significant success as a technology influencer, recommending suitable software solutions that will help organisations clients run and grow their business, we ask Robert about his approach and why he believes it’s the future of accounting...
As businesses increasingly look to cloud technology and cloud innovators continue to disrupt the rapidly ageing on-premise and hosted software market, the role of accountants and is changing. Where once the focus was on tax and compliance, there’s now an increasing need for a better understanding of business processes and the technology that can help companies manage their processes more efficiently.
Companies like Integration Kings are achieving significant success by becoming technology influencers, recommending suitable software solutions that will help their clients run and grow their business. We speak to Robert King about his approach and why he believes it’s the future of accounting.
The journey from accountant to cloud integrator
Although his background is in accounting, and he’s still a chartered accountant, Robert King prefers the term Cloud Integrator. His company, Integration Kings helps small businesses move to cloud-based applications so that they can run more efficiently, streamline their processes and ultimately improve their bottom line.
It’s an approach driven as much by personal motivation as it is business focussed: “To help someone transition out of what sometimes feels like chaos when I walk in, to fairly standard processes and best practice, is a good feeling,” says Robert. “You know that they can leverage or scale their business, to get ready for sale or other things.”
Realising the potential for working more real-time with clients, Robert started working with Xero in 2011, before starting Integration Kings in 2014. He’s always been quick to understand the changing world of business and how new technology can help: “When I was a younger accountant, I thought I was really helping a small business by getting their tax and compliance and financials together,” he explains. “My perspective now is to get to the crux of a business, to really understand it so that I can recommend the right tools to do the job successfully, and also to collect the data for sales, operations, reporting and accounting so that they can make decisions about their business.”
What skills do today’s accountants and bookkeepers need?
So how do accountants and bookkeepers offer great service to clients now and in the future? Robert says: “You have to have good understanding of how to operate a business to be able to sit down and do an assessment. Over the years I’ve done a lot of reading and learned from a lot of other good business owners about what you need, the processes to run a business.”
He points to one recent example, working with North Group surveyors, a business with around 30 staff who were paying around $2,000 AUS a month for a large on-premise system to manage their accounts and job costing. This represented a large overhead for their business and wasn’t returning the level of reporting they needed.
After reviewing their systems and processes, Integration Kings recommended a package of cloud-based services including TidyWork to deal with job costing and management, Capsule CRM and Xero. They now operate on cloud-based software, saving about $1,000 AUD a month, and because they no longer need a server, that’s a hard-cost saving of around $20,000 AUD every three years. There are also significant time-saving advantages, as field workers can now submit time sheets and access sales and lead management on their phones, interacting in real-time with the cloud, whereas previously that was all done manually.
Investing in partnerships
Advising on cloud-based technology has proved highly successful for Integration Kings. This has largely been driven by Robert’s willingness to invest in developing his own understanding of cloud software and in developing strong relationships with significant partners including software providers.
“If we’re going to have strategic partnerships I want them to be sound relationships,” Robert explains. “So, if the partnership is not going in the direction I need as a consultant, I can ring up and have a chat to the owner and give the feedback required.”
It’s a relationship that takes time to develop but can be mutually beneficial as Robert explains: “As consultants, we’re out there talking to business owners every day of the week, trying to find solutions to resolve the pains in their business. You know if they’re the right partner and you give positive feedback, you get a better core product that I can resell to clients – so it’s a win-win relationship for everyone.”
A new approach to building relationships
How should accountants and bookkeepers looking to advance their business take advantage of the opportunities that cloud-services offer? Robert says it’s important to do more than just tick the box when it comes to partnerships, particularly with software providers.
“Traditionally, you’d become a partner, and they’d put you on their website, but that’s not building a good relationship. I can’t promote a product if I don’t know who the people are behind it. We don’t just partner with stuff that’s just come off the shelf and is new to the market, we’d rather partner with products that are true and tested and have survived the normal cycle, like Tidy, for example.”
The future for accounting services
Robert has invested significant time in building relationships with partners as well as his personal and business brand with Integration Kings. He’s an influencer in the accounting industry, boasting a market reach of around 5,000 accountants and businesses globally through his LinkedIn network. What advice does he offer accountants and bookkeepers looking to emulate that success?
“To do the job we do, you need to think holistically, think outside the box, keep learning and listening. One thing we have focused on is making sure we’re aligned with other people that can help a client. Connect people together as a value add. The more you can do that as a consultant, the more value you can add. You’re not only fixing things in your focus you’re also bringing other relationships into the room to help the client even further.”
In 2015, a PWC study predicted that the accounting profession was among one of the highest at risk of decline by 97.5 percent due to automation within 20 years. These studies suggest the direction Integration Kings has taken is necessary to retain and grow their business. Even survive.