If you're reading this article, maybe it's because you clicked on this link after searching for the keyword "accounting jobs montreal" in Google. If you searched for that keyword, then maybe it's because you're looking for something new in your career. Maybe you want a change and you want something different, something fresh.
If that's the case, you came to the right place. This article is intended to give you a rather new option when it comes to your career path: working at an online accounting firm. Here, we'll discuss the pros and the cons of why an online accounting firm might just be the right fit for your next career move.
What's an online accounting firm?
The term "online accounting firm" can mean different things to different people, but at its core, online accounting firms represent a different way of working and a different way of serving customers.
For the most part, accounting services are delivered to customers in a completely virtual, paperless environment. In order to do so, these kinds of firms rely on a variety of apps, software and technology to run the firm and to effectively perform their services. A lot of traditional accountants have difficulty understanding the concept of no paper in accounting and only meeting their customers over Skype versus in-person, but to millennials, it actually makes perfect sense.
An online accounting firm is also synonymous with doing business differently. They typically don't follow what happened in the past and carve they carve their own path on they think accounting services should be delivered in the digital age.
As an online accounting firm ourselves, we are biased, but we certainly believe that this model is the future.
What are the pros?
Online accounting firms like us wouldn't exist if we didn't think that the pros outweighed the cons. Keep in mind that in some instances, generalizations are being made below. On top of that, while I'll certainly draw from our own personal experiences, we also have good relationships with a variety of other online accounting firms around the world that we chat with regularly and many of them seem to be on the same page.
Here are what we consider to be the advantages of working in an online accounting firm:
Online accounting firms typically employ different pricing structures, such as fixed pricing or value pricing (read my feature with Intuit on our use of value pricing by clicking here), which varies compared to many traditional accounting firms. Tracking and billing hours are therefore less important for these firms for a variety of reasons and therefore many of these online firms have completely scrapped the archaic practice of keeping timesheets and billing for time. Most people working at firms can't stand their timesheets, and neither can we! For more info, you can see our blog post on why it's time to rip your timesheets by clicking here.
Entrepreneurial in nature
If you're the entrepreneurial type, you might enjoy the culture at an online accounting firm. Since cloud accounting is relatively new, these firms are relatively early in their life cycle and as such, those that enjoy spending their time in a work environment where they can see, feel and touch what it's like to participate in a growing business will benefit from working at an online accounting firm.
Use of cool apps and software
While you might have used Caseware at your previous firm, it is the antithesis of what online accounting firms are about. We're all about easy to use, modern cloud-based apps, not clunky desktop accounting software. We're about making an inefficient process more efficient, with the help of technology.
The cloud accounting software that we use is just plain awesome. There are so many benefits. It's so good, that it has almost created a cult-like following. Accounting software conferences like Xerocon or Quickbooks Connect, for instance, are populated with young, enthusiastic, modern accountants that are interested in pushing the accounting firm model as far out as possible. I would say that it resembles a tech conference more than an accounting conference.
Cloud accounting attracts interesting customers
Small businesses want an easier way to collaborate with their accountant, and the tech savvy ones who are avant-garde and who are comfortable working online are flocking to seek professionals who can deliver a modern service. We routinely see customers who are developing the latest technology in virtual reality, blockchain & software (not to mention a whole range of other business types and industries) who want a new way to work. As a result, you can expect online accounting firms to have a nice repertoire of customers doing some pretty nifty things in the world.
Embracing the millennial workplace culture and ditching the dress code
Millennials are having a huge impact on the way workplaces are being defined and structured today. Millennials like you want flexibility, autonomy, work-life balance and an enjoyable place to work. Step into an online accounting firm, and you'll notice that this has been modeled around just that. Jeans and t-shirts instead of suits and ties, no strict schedules (where results matter more than the hours you spend in the office) and remote work possibilities form part of the culture of these more modern firms.
On top of that, if you walked into the office of an online firm (some of them don't even have offices), you would see something that doesn't even remotely resemble an accounting firm and resembles something that looks more like a tech startup.
What are the cons?
Like anything, there are drawbacks to working in an online accounting firm. Here are a few:
No in-person meetings with customers
As most meetings with customers occur on Skype or web conference, there are limited in-person meetings with clients. Many online accounting firms do have physical locations where the team is centralized, so there is in-person contact with team members, but if you're the type that likes to travel to your client's office, then you might be better served at another type of accounting firm. Truth be told, traveling to your client's office is usually only fun for the first bit anyways!
Multiple hats usually need to be worn
This may be a pro or a con, depending on the type of person you are. As most of these firms are younger businesses, team members are looked at to help with various aspects of the business, not sure just the accounting. This can mean helping out with some marketing activities, operational tasks, technology/IT assistance and other areas that may need tending to if everyone else is in a crunch.
Limited audit work
If you're an auditor and looking for a change of career, we have seen that many online firms are offering limited assurance services. On top of that, if you're newly enrolled in the CPA program and looking to obtain your auditor title, if the firm doesn't offer assurance services, then obtaining your CPA auditor title won't be possible with that organization. Keep in mind that CPA candidates can still become a CPA at these firms due to new requirements, but if you are dead set on becoming an auditor, you will need to obtain your audit hours elsewhere.
A new option is available for accountants
Hopefully this article raises awareness to those of you looking for a career change that there is a new option that exists in the accounting world; online accounting firms. We are seeing a lot of enthusiastic accountants joining and applying that come to us saying that they didn't feel like that fit in elsewhere. Online accounting firms are tapping into a market that is dissatisfied with the current options, so firms like ours are happy to offer a unique alternative.
Are online firms good for everyone? Absolutely not. Some will fit in better with the larger ones, others will fit in better with the more traditional ones. What's important is that you now have a new option to choose from, and that's certainly never a bad thing!
About Xen Accounting
Xen Accounting is a 100% virtual, fully paperless, online accounting firm designed for small businesses in the digital age. We combine cool apps with virtual accountants in order to provide an easy, pain-free accounting experience for our customers.
Since 2013, Xen Accounting has been recognized as a thought leader when it comes to providing modern accounting services to small businesses across Canada. Featured continuously in the press for our forward-thinking approach, selected as 1 of 9 members on Intuit’s 2015 Accountant Council and becoming the first accounting firm in Canada to accept bitcoins as payment, Xen Accounting is constantly looking to break the mold of what an accounting firm should look like in the digital age.
For more information, please check out www.xenaccounting.com or our Twitter handle @XenAccounting.