In general, the Brazilian economy has been changing sharply in the last years; the new digital contexts and the changings in the consumer’s profile make the companies face new contexts to perform their work and satisfy their consumers’ expectations. Wasn’t different at the first semester of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemics forced many companies to rearrange their modality of work, as also review their commitments, projects, strategies and services offered to the customers. This study analyses and show arguments about the stage which the Brazilian accounting sector is inserted, comparing data from different size accounting organizations and the Consolidation Curve theory, clarifying the principles that build this theory, as its updates and of course, the features that are current in the accounting sphere.
Keywords: Accounting Market, Consolidation Phasis, Strategy.
Based in “Winning the Merger Endgame” (2002), Rothenbueche, Schrottke and Niewin (2013) mention the thesis about the industries consolidating themselves at market charting a similar course, based in four stages which are Opening, Scale, Focus and finally, Balance and Alliance. These steps, reunited compose a theorical strategy called Endgame Curve. Beyond discussing the applicability of the techniques of this theory to the fortification of the companies among the market, the book also purposes five precepts about this consolidation in different sectors of economy in general, according to the conjunctures that usually repeat at the process of starting operations and progress in many companies:
1 – All industries consolidate themselves following similar ways;
2 – Fusion actions and consolidation tendences can be predictable;
3 – The endgame curve can be used as a tool to strengthen the strategies of consolidation and make fusions and acquisitions easier;
4 – Each important strategical and operational movement must be evaluated, with regard to their impact in the consolidation process;
5 – The consolidation role offers a guide to optimize the company’s portfolio.
The mentioned stages show features that allow us identifying in which among the four steps the company is inserted at the current moment, also charting strategies to make it advancing to the next step. Each phase has its own singularities, so that is not confused with characteristics from another stage. The concepts that are discussed and developed by the authors to defend those phases deconstruct some overpast premises that define the hypothesis of an ideal model of company according to its size or according until where it can grow.
The Opening phase considers that both, the control of quality as the other, the processes of production are simpler, sometimes requiring less effort to be done or are executed by handmade work; that; do not demand too much formality to plan or not even plurality of systems to produce; despite of the simplicity of tasks, the company is worried in generating revenue, so they can keep the cash with enough funds to cover the demands, mainly the done investments, and of course, survive, captivating consumers. Once they overcame the opening phases, the companies dedicate themselves to the Scale phase, which aim is related to developing new products and services intentioned to better the financial results; it makes the industry refine its ways of production, reviewing the quality of that which’s offered and enhancing all the processes, so the final product can be delivered to the client, meeting all the expectations and solicitations successfully. Despite of all cautions to maintain the company’s performance in this stage, the involved managers and workers still feel difficulty in winning a really significative growth, mainly because this is the stage, when the fusion of companies is more observed, ambitioned in generating concurrence and destabilize the beginner or those who are static at the market.
Doing few improvements and a more refined production scale, the companies advance with their action to the Focus stage, aiming to keep their operations more efficient, planning to their tasks flow with simplicity; cutting possible left edges, checking if reductions can be done, mainly in the costs, not causing any negative impact to the profitability, keeping themselves competitive, aiming possible projects and opportunities for the future, where new alliances can be firmed, pointing to success. Such associations are part of a strategy, that enjoys a very risky moment of “commodity” from the rivalry parts, to boost innovation and the reach of success from allies’ parts. It’s said that to reach the podium, the Top 3 of the business successes, the success key is on continuous innovation, to have that, companies dedicate themselves in elaborating new budgets, plans, consult and test new practices to manage their team, their investments and the systems involved to the production they offer.
Despite this theory, the practice in many companies is totally different, with each one charting unique ways, many times their own ways or much more simplified, but always having a common aim: evolving. Seeing this, still in 2013, the consulting team of the authors considered an update in the thesis of the markets’ consolidation.
The reflection about which courses or strategies are more befitting to the companies reality opened possibility to new point of views, new conceptions and new analyses. Applying these arguments at the accounting sphere, we can have an interpretation of the endgame curve by five stages: Opening, Plateau, Concentration, Reopening and Domination. This gradation starts with the visualization of an opportunity potentially profitable, stimulating the players to engage themselves in a new market; as example at the accounting sector, we can list the Digital Accounting, the Consultive Accounting or also the 100% online Accounting. Going along to the new opportunities that emerge, also appear new players, be just-graduated professionals; professionals searching for new jobs or new companies, aiming to live new developments or new outlooks, as also institutions of financial and technological nature searching for loyalty. This new wave of players breaks the market, because there isn’t too much to justify a good consolidation, so they keep themselves “stuck”, as the Plateau stage predicts. Otherwise, there are many players who are very engaged, seeing a bigger necessity of growth, and to climb the market mountain, to hit the global achievement, they go on using concentration moves and stronger onslaughts, more incisive, be through de organic growth or by the fusion of companies, by new negotiations and acquisitions.
In any of the mentioned stages, the involved participants worry about how and when they can reach a comfortable phase, where they have dominium against the market concurrence, being able to finally give some pause in additional consolidations, but aware that in some moment can appear the need of reopening opportunity for new players or of incorporating emerging markets.
About what’s purposed by the Endgame Curve, be through the discussion of four stages, or through its update in five steps, this study questions in which phase is the market of accounting services in Brazil in. Observing that the Opening phase is common to both versions of this theory, will be investigated if the Brazilian market keeps itself at this stage or if it was already overcome, reaching Scale or Plateau. This examination will be done based in conceptual and objective criteria, applied to 503 correspondents, filtering the answer of 475 partners, owners, managers and directors spread around Brazil, excepting those from Acre and Amapá, expecting to identify respectively the performance of the companies and of the involved players. The Trust Level of the results discussed, based on the great volume of accounting organizations represented in this study – 71.606 offices – is equivalent to 95%, being the margin of error equal to 4%, making the opinions reflected here close enough to the reality lived in companies analysed. The initiative in this research is related to the purposes of the debates at the Master in Business Sciences by the Florida Christian University. Among the conceptual criteria, we highlight the recognition of quality control and of the processes of production, as discussed by the first perspective of Opening, are simple and handmade; the finding of formal plan is simplified or even inexistent; strategies, which aim is only surviving and keeping the company and the cash amount being enough or not to cover the necessary demands, while about the objective criteria, related to the players, will be checked if there are monitoring processes set by themselves or any kind of planning, optimizing work, allowing them to overcome the opening phase, rendering profit that allow initiating new investments.
2. MAIN MARKET MARKERS
Among the turbulence of the first semester of 2020, the accounting sector in Brazil shows that 51% of the organizations in the area register average revenue up to R$50.000 (Brazilian reais). This percentage represent more than a half of the institutions, that by the way, also are included at the proportion of 80% of the companies, which revenues is up to R$150.000 (Brazilian reais) monthly, contrasting only to 10% of the total companies that, at the same time, showed revenues higher than R$300.000 (Brazilian reais).
The got data make evident that there’s a big disbalance between the income from both groups: small offices and the large offices; which the first one represents the biggest fraction – 80% – and reaches average revenues equivalent to R$45.800, while the other 20%, the large ones, are responsible for collecting near to R$413.000.
Table 1 – Companies’ Monthly Revenue.
|Average||80% – Small Off.||20% – Large Off.|
|Less than R$10.000||15,5%||19,5%||0%|
|Between R$10.001 and R$20.000||14,2%||17,9%||0%|
|Between R$20.001 and R$30.000||9,3%||11,7%||0%|
|Between R$30.001 and R$40.000||5,7%||7,2%||0%|
|Between R$40.001 and R$ 50000||6,2%||7,7%||0%|
|Between R$50.001 and R$60.000||3,8%||4,8%||0%|
|Between R$60.001 and R$70.000||4,9%||6,1%||0%|
|Between R$70.001 and R$80.000||2,8%||3,5%||0%|
|Between R$80.001 and R$90.000||3,0%||3,7%||0%|
|Between R$90.001 and R$100.000||4,0%||5,1%||0%|
|Between R$100.001 and R$150.000||10,2%||12,8%||0%|
|Between R$150.001 and R$200.000||3,6%||0%||17,7%|
|Between R$200.001 and R$250.000||4,3%||0%||20,8%|
|Between R$250.001 and R$300.000||2,6%||0%||12,5%|
|Between R$300.001 and R$350.000||1,9%||0%||9,4%|
|Between R$350.001 and R$400.000||1,7%||0%||8,3%|
|Between R$400.001 and R$500.000||2,3%||0%||11,5|
|Between R$500.001 and R$600.000||1,1%||0%||5,2%|
|Between R$600.001 and R$700.000||0,2%||0%||1,0%|
|Between R$700.001 and R$800.000||0,6%||0%||3,1%|
|Between R$800.001 and R$900.000||0,6%||0%||3,1%|
|Between R$900.001 and R$1.000.000||0%||0%||0%|
|Between R$1.000.001 and R$1.500.000||1,1%||0%||5,2%|
|Between R$1.500.001 and R$2.000.000||0,2%||0%||1,0%|
|More than R$2.000.000||0,2%||0%||1,0%|
One among the factor that contribute to these results is the number of clients attended by each organization. From the analysed institutes, 83% have their services provided up to 200 consumers, customarily other companies from different areas. Among these 83%, there’s a fraction corresponding to 51% of all offices, which the number of clients isn’t bigger than 70 consumers. The percentage corresponding to the companies that have a customers’ portfolio superior to 250 clients is the lowest among all institutes, represented only by 8% among them all. Bringing back the distribution of those companies according their size, the small ones – the 80% – have in average 68 clients, while the other 20% have in their portfolio around 290 clients.
Identifying the number of clients attended by each department is valuable, because it allows us analysing an important marker to the area, the average monthly revenue per customer, also known as “average ticker”, that is a performance criterion to understand the selling average per client. To the checked period, the market shows an average of R$1.057, but the offices inserted in the group of small offices – the 80% – reached only R$667, while the other group reached, R$1.477. It’s possible to understand how those results were hit, from the details showed below, which registers at the table the several customers reach, according to the general average and to the both companies profile studied.
Tabela 2 – Number of customers with signed contract
|Overall Average||80% – Small Offices||20% – Large Offices|
|Between 1 and 3||3,6%||4,6%||0%|
|Between 4 and 6||3,8%||4,6%||0%|
|Between 7 and 10||4,7%||5,9%||0%|
|Between 11 and 15||3,2%||4,0%||0%|
|Between 16 and 20||3,8%||4,8%||0%|
|Between 21 and 30||6,8%||8,6%||0%|
|Between 31 and 40||8,3%||10,5%||0%|
|Between 41 and 50||5,5%||7,0%||0%|
|Between 51 and 60||4,5%||4,8%||2,1%|
|Between 61 and 70||6,6%||8,0%||1,0%|
|Between 71 and 80||3,8%||4,3%||2,1%|
|Between 81 and 90||3,2%||3,8%||1,0%|
|Between 90 e 100||5,1%||5,1%||4,2%|
|Between 101 e 125||8,5%||9,1%||6,3%|
|Between 126 e 150||5,7%||5,4%||7,3%|
|Between 151 e 200||5,5%||3,8%||12,5%|
|Between 201 e 250||4,7%||2,7%||12,5%|
|Between 251 e 300||4,0%||1,6%||13,5%|
|Between 301 e 400||3,6%||0,5%||15,6%|
|Between 401 e 500||1,9%||0,3%||7,3%|
|Between 501 e 600||0,6%||0%||3,1%|
|Between 601 e 700||0,4%||0%||2,1%|
|More than 700||1,7%||0%||8,3%|
This average of clients is also influenced by their incoming and outcoming at the portfolios; between January and June on this year, the offices registered the contract cancelation of up to five customers. At least 3 customers were lost for about 70% of the accounting companies in the first six months of this year; it influences at the monthly cancelation fee, that’s equal to 0,65% and of course influences at the customer lifecycle, that is estimated to be around thirteen years, from the strategies to catch this customer to the strategies to keep them updated. In the financial sphere, those cancelations represent a monthly revenue lost about R$9.065; to the small offices the lost calculated is about R$8.224, while the large ones feel their month revenue dropping R$25.389.
About the customer acquisitions, the first semester purposed to 90% of the offices an achievement of one customer or less than this per month, only 2% of all companies got partnership and loyalty with more than two customers per month. This achievement represents to this class in general an addition at the monthly average revenue, equivalent to R$14.974; of which the small offices register an average about R$11.177 and the large ones, R$29.695; referring only to the new captured customers.
This customers’ movement is also related to default, in addition of contractual modifications, such as contract review or reduction. To 90% of the companies, the reduced amount doesn’t reach R$10.000, but, at least 64% of those companies, the drop was equivalent to two thousand Brazilian reais. From every four companies, only one didn’t make any kind of contractual reduction, but those that made, felt the values of contract dropping between one and six clients. For those groups, the reduction average is equal to R$6.099 for those which are part of the small offices against R$17.055 for those who are part the large ones, for both groups together, the average is equivalent to R$8.424.
Only a part corresponding to 10% of the offices didn’t register any kind of default from their customers, but inside this percentage there’s still a variable value between one and six partners not paying the contractual amounts on time. To the offices that registered default on part of their contractors, at least 60% notify debts up to R$10.000, in addition of 10% the companies, which debt is higher than R$50.000. In general terms, the overall average of the accounting companies suffered a net deduction in their monthly values, corresponding to 2% of the total, and only 6,4% of the small companies felt this drop, just like 3% of the large ones felt it too, as is showed at the table.
Table 3 – Net growth at the first semester of 2020
|Overall Average||80% – Small ones||20% – Large ones|
|Increases in monthly revenue||R$14.973,84||R$11.177,48||R$29.695,07|
|Cancelation of monthly contracts||R$9.065,17||R$8.223,60||R$25.389,76|
|Value reduction of monthly contracts||R$8.423,85||R$6.099,00||R$17.005,53|
|Monthly net reduction||2%||6,4%||3%|
The outgo performed by a half of the companies in June of 2020 was smaller than R$20.000, even so, when we check the overall average of spent, the value seen is equal to R$79.000, otherwise, is also considered how long it keeps active as financial reserve, which even following an overall average equal to R$133.000, a big part of the offices have reserved amounts below R$20.000 against only 20% of the companies who have reserved more than R$100.000. This shows that a significant part of the accounting organizations have some cash runaway equivalent to 1,7 months; in other words, those offices don’t have enough profitability to survive more than two months without new revenues and profits.
Table 4 – Main markers in June, 2020
|Overall Average||80% – Small Offices||20% – Large Offices|
|Burn (monthly total spend)||R$79.300||R$25.693||R$280.833|
|Net cash generation||R$41.400||R$21.107||R$132.448|
|Cash flow (%)||34%||46%||32%|
|Total cost of operating personnel||R$53.907||R$17.758||R$172.343|
|Gross operating margin||55%||61%||58%|
|Average ticket (month)||R$1.057||R$667||R$1.427|
|CAC Payback (month)||16,2||16,0||11,3|
|Cash runway (month)||1,7||1,8||1,7|
|% Customers’ cancelation||0,65%||1,21%||0,34%|
|Revenue per employee||R$7.544||R$6.274||R$8.383|
|Cost per employee||R$3.369||R$2.433||R$3.496|
The table above allows us to make many interpretations, mainly about a very relevant information, the CAC Payback – gross operating margin per customer (average ticker x operating margin in % divided by CAC –. To the small offices, this marker is equivalent to 16 months, while the large ones don’t overtake twelve. That means that there’s some kind of inefficiency in sales on the part of the small offices, creating discomfort in the cash flow from the seventeenth month of contract. The small companies live in a delicate situation with regard to their expansion, even there’s a volume of investments proportional to their marketing and their sales.
Other information on the table that allow us making good analyses is the average ticket, that can justify the lifetime of the small companies, such as the good revenue per collaborator at the large offices. In 2020, the number of registered collaborators and partners is up to six people to at least fifty percent of the organizations. In addition to this half, there are more 10% that don’t have on their tea any employee, beyond the partners and there are more 10% with a team bigger than 40 people.
3. MANAGEMENT AND STRATEGIES
The Brazilian accounting companies used to show a different organizational structure, when is analysed the differences between the groups of small and large offices. It was verified the distribution of collaborators per sector in both groups, identifying this way, that some prefer the outsourcing of some services, so that the tasks performed at the organization, be focused in the accounting practices or related to them.
Table 5 – Which sector have one or more people settled, performing some function in integral period.
|Overall Average||80% – Small Offices||20% – Large Offices||Delta (%)|
|Processes and quality||20%||15%||33%||117%|
|Relationship with customers||38%||36%||45%||25%|
To both groups, the Finances department, Salles and Relationship with customers have a very low incidence of outsourcing services. Appears as though offices choose keeping those responsibilities inside their walls, under their control, while the services related to technology are performed with external support, that means outsourcing. Related to Marketing, Human Resources and Quality, the big companies show a higher preference for outsourcing them than the small ones.
The new customers acquisition is an important step to the accounting companies, not only for generating new revenue, but for making popularize the competence and the brand of the company among the market competitors. As happens in any economical sector, winning and retaining clients with your organization means other company lost it or wasn’t able to retain it. To the accounting market, purchasing customers’ portfolios is more interesting than selling. No more than 4% of the entrepreneurs show willingness in negotiate and give up their clients, be totally or just part of their portfolio. This percentage is more present among the big companies, that is equivalent to 10% of this group.
Table 6 – Plans for the next 12 months
|Overall Average||80% – Small Offices||20% – Large Offices|
|Totally sell the company||2%||1%||5%|
|Partially sell the company||1%||1%||4%|
|Selling the customers’ portfolio||1%||1%||1%|
|Totally buy other companies||12%||10%||18%|
|Partially buy other companies||10%||8%||15%|
|Buying customers’ portfolio||42%||42%||42%|
|Merger with other companies||19%||21%||14%|
|Promoting Family succession||27%||25%||36%|
|Create a franchise network||12%||10%||21%|
Surprisingly 42% of the offices, independently of their size, are interested in buying customers’ portfolio from other companies, while at least 18% of the large organization plan to purchase not just the customers. From each five large offices, at least one sees the franchising model as an option to purchase new members and extensions. Other thing that calls the attention is the family succession, in which some companies manifested being interested on that – 25% of the small offices and 36% of the large ones –, waiting new perspectives and aims with a new leadership, taken by heirs.
Table 7 – Service that are offered currently by the company
|Overall Average||80% – Small Offices||20% – Big Offices|
|BPO – bills to pay||39,24%||42,48%||26,25%|
|BPO – bills to receive||37,35%||40,41%||25,00%|
|Preparation of business plans||31,44%||33,04%||25,00%|
|Accounting / Financial diagnostics||31,21%||31,56%||31,25%|
|Implementation and monitoring of performance indicators||28,84%||27,73%||33,75%|
|Strategic business planning||28,13%||28,02%||27,50%|
|Recommendations for improving the business||27,19%||26,25%||32,50%|
|Support to solve doubts||21,04%||21,24%||21,25%|
|Support in the implementation of management systems||20,80%||22,71%||21,25%|
|Benchmark reports (Performance Comparison)||20,09%||20,94%||16,25%|
|Support for access to credit lines||18,68%||19,17%||15,00%|
|Support to reduce bad debt||16,78%||17,40%||13,75%|
|Support for exports/imports||9,22%||9,73%||7,50%|
Part of the wish in purchasing and taking control of other companies is related to the services performed by them, be currently or in future plans. Almost all organizations offer services related to accounting bookkeeping, tax bookkeeping and payroll processing and at least a half of the large offices already offer support in the implementation of management systems, although, those offices go beyond that, also offering processes such as bills to pay, bills to receive, support to exportation and importation, performance benchmarks and implementations and monitoring performance indicators.
Independent of the company size, it can be seen that the strategical management of the offices have similar guidelines.
Table 8 – Actions to be in first plan in the next 12 months
|Overall Average||80% – Small Offices||20% – Large Offices|
|Attract new customers||79,28%||78,88%||80,00%|
|Increase company productivity||62,29%||57,75%||78,65%|
|Improve customer servisse||55,81%||54,81%||60,00%|
|Integrate customer management systems with the office||52,85%||51,87%||56,84%|
|Deploy new Technologies||52,22%||48,66%||66,32%|
|Increase the technical capacity of the team||47,99%||46,79%||51,58%|
|Review company strategies||41,65%||41,44%||41,95%|
|Create actions to improve the customer experience||40,38%||37,70%||50,53%|
|Deploy systems to control processes and tasks||36,36%||26,63%||35,79%|
|Increase leadership management skills||35,73%||30,75%||53,68%|
|Develop actions for employee engagement||33,62%||29,95%||48,42%|
|Partially work with team in home office||32,14%||27,01%||52,63%|
|Deploy cloud systems for operational processing||25,58%||25,67%||25,26%|
|Deploy cloud management systems to customers||24,95%||24,87%||26,32%|
|Offer 100% online services||24,52%||25,94%||18,95%|
|Implement quality programs||22,41%||23,26%||20,00%|
|Deploy systems for self-service||19,66%||18,18%||26,32%|
|Work with team100% in home office||8,25%||9,09%||5,26%|
|Deploy Help Desk systems||7,61%||6,95%||10,53%|
|I don’t intend to change anything in the company||2,11%||2,14%||2,11%|
Attracting new customers; improving productivity; integration of client management systems with the office and the implementation of new technologies are topics discusses in most accounting agendas in the market; but only a third of the market seems to want prioritizing improving the leadership training with regard to their ways to manage; with regard to the development of motivating action to the collaborators and adapting work to the home office modality with part of the team.
The aspects of management and strategies that were observed through the results’ indicators take down any hypotheses about the accounting services market being in the Opening phase. The dedication that some companies have applied in their processes of quality and control at their offices prove that the market has overcome the first phase and is walking to new ones and that can be affirmed when we see that at least one fifth of the accounting companies dedicate themselves, in integral period, when there are collaborators supervising the quality of the processes or that plan and accompany the implementation of new programs, aiming the qualification of tasks in a determined deadline, commonly twelve months.
Beyond the involvement with processes of quality, half of the market already presents in their team, professionals dedicated exclusively to the financial sector of the organization; such as also at least 40% of the market plans and make strategical reviews to the future of their organizations.
The players show themselves increasingly active not only in the control of quality, as in the plan, but mainly in the survival of their companies. General data as the average percentage of cash generated (that is 34%) in relation to the gross revenue; low rate of contractual cancelations (around 0.65%), resulting in a possible long lifecycle circa of 13 years and with an average reduction equivalent to only 2%, even in times of crisis and remodelling the Market in consequence of the pandemics of COVID-19, they reveal the overcoming of the accounting offices to the survival phase.
The high percentual of companies interested in fusions and new acquisitions signal the advance of the market towards the stage of concentration, otherwise, new technologies, new players and adaptions at the behaviour of the customer’s market services can lead back all the situation to a new opening process, this way, the market needs to keep being observed, studying ways to receive the new tendencies without big surprises, understanding the changings before they happen.
DEANS, Graeme. K.; KROEGER, Fritz; ZEISEL, Stefan. Winning the merger game. New York: Mc Graw-Hill, 2002.
ROTHENBUECHE, J.; SCHROTTKE, J; NIEWIEM, S. The Merger Endgame Revisited. Frankfurt: A.T. Kearney Korea, 2013.