How accountants can unlock the power of strategic partnerships

business partnership business man investor handshake with effect global network | How accountants can unlock the power of strategic partnerships
By Ryan Hendrie | 22nd February 2023 | 5 min read

There’s a moment when many accountancy firms realise it’s time to form a strategic partnership – one that will grow their offering, expand their business and boost revenue.

See if this sounds familiar: you’re talking to an excited client. Their company has expanded and taken on a lot of staff thanks to a new contract. When trying to help them, you realise the sheer scale of the task – they need a comprehensive payroll setup and a better HR system.

The pain is twofold as you don’t want a customer to feel disappointed if you can’t meet their growing expectations, and you also don’t want them talking to rivals that can fulfil these new needs.

How do strategic partnerships benefit accountancy firms?

Often, you will see accountancy practices working with specialists outside of their field of expertise.

For instance, your firm might want to partner with a vendor or service provider, so you can offer tools and services you might not otherwise have been able to deliver.

It’s a great way to grow without hiring new experts or acquiring a company.

Strategic partnerships can be a very quick way to differentiate your business if you’re in a specialism (or location) with many rivals and you need to add value for clients beyond tax and compliance services.

With strategic partnerships, your accountancy practice appears bigger and has a broader set of capabilities – clients won’t just come to you to get their books done.

A new lease of life for your accountancy practice

Done right, a strategic partnership gives your business extra credibility.

Next time someone needs accountancy support, a payroll solution, or HR advice, you’ll have all the answers.

Clients will come to you to talk about areas beyond their immediate accountancy concerns and treat you more as a trusted collaborator.

A real pay-off

A good strategic partnership means an improved bottom line.

That can be money saved because you are exchanging services with your strategic partner, or it can often mean actual additional income from passing products or services to clients.

Whether you are saving cash or making money, or even both, depends on the type of strategic partnership you enter.

What does a strategic partnership look like?

Here are four types of strategic partnership arrangements that are well-suited to accountancy practices:

A reseller partner

If you’re a reseller, your accountancy acts like a shop window for your partner company.

Here, the accountancy firm will save their client the legwork of searching the internet for software or services, and your firm also handles the transaction.

In the best partnerships, you’ll get a ‘Partner Manager’ that supports you in drawing up plans to integrate their offering into your business and offers education/support about the product.

A referral partner

With referral partners, your firm advocates for solutions you want your clients to have.

However, you won’t have as much to do in terms of processing the sale when compared with a reseller.

A good referral partnership will still ensure you have plenty of information to hand, so you will be authoritative when sharing a solution with clients who trust you to deliver a great service.

We’re particularly proud of how we support businesses through our IRIS Accountancy Referral Partner Program – click here to find out more.

Joint ventures (JVs)

Joint ventures are when businesses combine forces to get a dream client they might not otherwise have been able to get.

These partnerships are often set up as an entity separate from the parties agreeing to work together.

Ever seen a section in a tender where you are suddenly asked about a provision that has nothing to do with your business? That is one sign you need a strategic partnership going forward, and a JV means both parties will be active in efforts to win work.

Strategic alliances

A strategic alliance is the epitome of “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”.

These partnerships allow two businesses to share their resources so that their combined offering makes for a more comprehensive service.

Often these are much more informal in the way they’re set up when compares to JVs, as there is not the same level of legal undertaking you will often see with the latter.

How to effectively partner with vendors

First things first: pick the right vendors to be your strategic partners.

But how do you do this? Choose strategic partnerships based on actual client needs beyond what you provide.

Once you have decided on your first likely strategic partnership, you need to get to know that vendor.

Make sure they’re credible, just as you would if you were signing up a new member of your team – their product or service needs to fit your identity.

When one of your clients uses a partner vendor’s software or service, it will reflect on you.

How can you be confident in a strategic partner?

Confidence comes from scrutiny.

When you weigh up a potential vendor, ask yourself: how robust is their solution? Is there any chance it will deliver inaccurate information to your clients? Does it risk stalling or causing any inconvenience?

Additionally, as part of your due diligence, determine how fast a potential vendor will respond to a call from one of your clients.

Try get a sense of how available their key staff – such as account managers – are for your practice.

Also, think about how easily you can recommend or sell the product/service.

Do you have a library of information to hand? Is there someone available to provide in-person training? Will everyone know what to do when a client wants to sign up? At IRIS, for example, in our Affinity Program, we make people experts in our software thanks to a full suite of support and online resources.

Furthermore, consider how transparent the vendor is when it comes to major problems – especially security issues.

Joining forces with a business should enhance your profile, not damage it by association.

Get started with the IRIS Affinity Partner Program for accountants

Our IRIS Affinity Partner Program is founded on the principle that we grow together.

When you team up with us, you get tools, training and resources, enabling you to drive up revenue and support clients with an expanded offering.

The program is designed with accountancy practices in mind and puts simplicity at its core.

Learn more about the IRIS Affinity Partner Program today.