Summit Consultants is different to 99% of other accounting and taxation firms.
You may have heard that sort of claim before, and are thinking, so how is Summit different?
Well, it’s made up of a mixture of things that make Summit unique:
Our clients come mainly from the SME business sector. Like our clients, we recognise that we run a business too: we are just as conscious of cash flows, quality service delivery, efficiency and margins as they are; so we understand where our clients’ businesses are focused. And we are no different in that we must face and meet the 21st century challenges to business of the internet and disruptive technologies. Consequently, one of the services we provide that differentiates us from many accounting firms is that we mentor and coach a number of our business clients.
This also means that we think about branding, presentation and image. We have recently fine-tuned our business name, modernised our logo and updated our website which is constantly under review. Summit is not a one-man-band: our business is not built around any one individual or their ego or identity – none of the owners’ names appears in the name of the company or our business name. The business has been going for 26 years and we intend for it to continue for many more, irrespective of who the owners are in the future.
Except for some consulting work where it’s really difficult to define the scope, we don’t charge by the hour or for our time. Our view is that time billing places the fee risk on the client, whereas as the service provider, the fee risk should be on us. The scope of the engagement is defined very clearly at the outset and a fixed price is agreed for the work in advance. It takes into account the complexity of the work involved, the skill, the knowledge and expertise required to fulfil the engagement, as well as the legal liability and responsibility for getting it right. This means that the onus is then on us to be as efficient as we can be while delivering a quality service. Thus the fees cannot escalate due to extra time taken by us for the agreed work. Hence our clients never experience bill shock and disputes over our fees. The certainty they have about the price allows us to tailor payment plans for our fees that are sensitive to our client’s cash flow needs: we offer fixed periodic payments or initial deposit plus final payment plans. We believe this package around our engagement, prices, payment and fees is truly a value proposition for the client that they can fully assess before engaging us for any work.
One of the most common criticisms we hear of accounting firms is that they don’t respond quickly enough to client communications. We take this very seriously; and in keeping with our philosophy that the business does not revolve around the owners, we have a different staff structure to most other accounting firms. Firstly, 90% of our staff are fully qualified or under-graduate accountants. Next, as the owners we would spend 80% of our time as the direct contact point in communicating with clients, sourcing new work and clients, supervising the delivery and work of our staff and thinking about and working on our business; with only 20% of our time spent “hands on”. This allows us to make and keep our promise for a maximum 24 hour direct response time to all client communications by telephone, email or SMS.
We have multiple physical and virtual offices under the Summit brand, so we work on streamlining systems and processes across the business to ensure that quality and efficiency are maintained consistently throughout. Our vision is to open more Summit offices in the future and each one will follow the same template that is evolving now.
Our desire to stay at the cutting edge and be efficient leads us to embrace innovation and technology. We strive to use as little paper as possible; we have moved our software applications into the cloud, and utilise the latest technology for data storage and backups; as well as having a VOIP telephone system linking our offices.
Lastly, we understand where our expertise lies and we do not try to be all things to all people, particularly under the ever-changing legislative environment for financial services. There is a vast array of services that our clients need, that require compliance and skills that we believe are best delivered by experts who are not accountants. These include Financial Planning and SMSF advice, Mortgage Broking, Property Consulting and Legal Services. We have built a network of qualified and skilled experts in these areas, to ensure our clients receive a full suite of services to meet all of their financial and commercial needs.