According to Onpay’s 2019 Small Business Finance & HR Report, many business owners regard their accountants as trustworthy advisors, providing them with insights on their business’s non-accounting aspects, like technology planning and HR benefits advice. One reason why accountants are regarded as advisors is that accountants have recently shifted from a compliance focus to an advisory focus. Known as holistic accounting, this approach to business accounting emphasizes a big-picture view of a company’s financial health & performance, rather than specific aspects like tax returns or financial statements.
What is holistic accounting?
The word “holistic” has roots in the practice of holistic medicine, where physicians focus on treating a patient’s entire being rather than simply remedying a problem. Similarly, holistic accountants perform all accounting functions in the context of a company’s ultimate financial goals. The emphasis of this accounting perspective is growth, not simply compliance.
Holistic accounting results from trends like outsourced accounting, cloud computing, and the popularity of client portals. Outsourced accounting allows companies to gain expert accounting assistance and financial insights without the overhead costs of benefits, training, and payroll. Advances in cloud computing & accounting information systems have allowed accounting software to become more robust and web-based, allowing closer collaboration between accountants and their clients. Similar to project management platforms and online banking systems, client portals allow clients to upload documents securely, discuss sensitive information with their accountant, and review financial reports and documents whenever necessary.
Holistic accounting vs. a typical approach?
For those new to holistic accounting, it’s helpful to understand how such an approach is different and superior to the typical approach found in many firms.
Typically, accounting firms specialize in specific areas like managing and filing tax returns, managing bookkeeping functions, or preparing and reviewing financial statements. The difference between typical accounting and holistic accounting is the addition of strategy to each function and job they perform on behalf of their clients.
Based on a thorough understanding of your industry’s needs and intimate knowledge of your unique business goals, a holistic accounting firm will ensure that each job performed is aligned to support short-term and long-term financial success.
The key components of a holistic approach
Often, it can be difficult and confusing for companies to understand the difference between a holistic accountant and a typical accountant. Often, a CPA firm will describe itself as an advisor or offer professional management advice and strategy. But, the details of what this means are not clearly communicated on many firm websites. The following traits are based on the characteristics described in The Journal of Accountancy’s CPA Horizons 2025: A Road Map for the Future.
#1: Incorporating technology for efficiency
One of the primary drivers of a holistic approach is a strategic and efficient use of technology. The incorporation of an efficient tech stack is equally critical for an accountant and their clients. From choosing the right cloud accounting software and tailoring it to a client’s needs or assessing the
How better tech benefits the accountant
Often, a CPA or accountant will neglect to improve their internal systems and tools because they subscribe to the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Not upgrading may also be a cost-saving measure since many accountants neglect to consider the long-term benefits of improving their systems and tools.
However, strategically using and improving internal tools allows accountants to automate or streamline manual tasks, which reduces the chance of data entry errors and allows firms to focus on more advisory services.
How better tech benefits the client
Professionals who partner with an advisor who truly uses tech to drive efficiencies within their firm receive superior service and business advice. Rather than being bogged down in the data entry related to the preparation and management of tax returns and financial statements, this type of accounting team will be free to plan roadmaps to achieve each client’s financial goals. Cost optimization, cash flow forecasts, and other planning activities are consequently the accountant’s primary focus and each accounting job or function can be better aligned with the client’s key performance indicators and overarching goals.
#2: Managing wealth & resources in light of business goals
Numerous professional services that file tax documents or handle small business bookkeeping, few go beyond deliverables and understand the true needs of their client’s profession. This is unfortunate because the effects of business decisions often impact personal life decisions and vice versa. This is why it’s critical to hire a team that understands the need for trusted, holistic advice – not just accurate deliverables.
If you find yourself in need of a holistic approach to accounting, contact MBS Accountancy! Our outsourced accounting firm considers all aspects of our client’s financial health and recommends the optimal path forward for long-term financial success.