Evolution of the Bookkeeper in a Digital World
In a galaxy long ago and far away……
It seems funny to start an article like this when looking at bookkeeping, but that is our reality. The role of the bookkeeper remained unchanged for so long. For many of us, we were glorified data entry clerks. I’m sorry to say, but it is true. We received the information too late to be of any real assistance in having an immediate impact on our clients’ business decisions. Without consciously meaning to, we settled into this role for decades. Now, with the emerging digital world of cloud accounting, we have access to our main financial management software systems, such as QuickBooks Online, that allow us to work with our clients in a more collaborative role. We now have access to our clients’ information almost instantly with the use of bank feeds and receipt capturing apps such as Hubdoc and Receipt Bank. This means that now, we truly have access to the information that can make an immediate impact on our clients’ business decisions. We have access to apps that will enhance our clients’ business flows and allow us to work with real time data. We can now take our knowledge of that data and advise our clients when things are happening, instead of months too late. Apps such as Hubdoc and Receipt Bank are used to collect the receipts and bank statements in a digital format, and forward it to the accounting professional, in some cases, within minutes.
It could be as simple as what happened here last week. We noticed an unusual amount payable to Canada Revenue Agency in our clients bank feed. To the tune of over $20,000.00. We knew that this number was not what they owed on any of their tax accounts, so we were able to contact them and get the situation remedied, and the excess money back to our clients before there was any damage done to their cash flow. Or it could be that we are noticing trends within the financial statements and bring in apps such as DryRun or Chata to help our clients clear up their cash flow or pay off their debts quicker by diverting cash flow. Or maybe we are helping our clients to learn how to value price and offer pricing plans, as we have been able to successfully accomplish with a residential home cleaning company, and a podcasting company. In all situations, you will notice that we went far beyond that of the traditional bookkeeping role. None of these situations would have been possible if we did not adapt to the cloud, and see the possibilities that this new world offers.
Bookkeepers, as a profession, need to embrace this change, and change with it. Change can be scary, but oh so rewarding once you get there. Those that decide to avoid the change, or think it is temporary, will be left behind. I made the change a few years back. Since then, my business has grown to a real business, supporting multiple employees, and multiple clients. My clients also evolved with me. For those that didn’t, we parted ways. Again, something I was afraid to do. I mean, who lets paying clients go? This was a step that ended up being necessary in my evolution. I do not refer to myself or any of my team as bookkeepers. We provide bookkeeping services. It is the services that I feel makes more of a distinction. I wish we could change that title as well, but I fear if we change it too much, there will be a full disconnect between what the public perceives we do, and what we actually do. After all, what we are doing now, is an extension of bookkeeping services. It is more business consulting, and data management.
With so many new small business start-ups, the new client wants to work with some of their data, and this millennial client, is quite comfortable with technology and the cloud. After all, this is the world in which they grew up. We can now work together with our clients, as they now have a better understanding of their business and cash flow, at least for those who work with an accounting professional.
Now that we are able to work in real time, we can focus on helping our clients solving their pain points. We have truly embraced this part, and take on more of a partnership / consulting role with our clients. This will increase our clients’ chances of success and profit, which in turn will make them loyal to us, and who doesn’t want loyal and grateful clients.
The evolution of my business did not happen overnight. It was slow, methodical, and purposeful over a 2 year period. I won’t promise you that it will be easy, but it is necessary. Otherwise, you will find yourself left behind. Just like the saying, a branch that doesn’t bend in the wind, breaks.