The Changing Face of Bookkeeping

Remember when you bundled up your adding machine, your 16-column pad and jumped into the car on a windy autumn day to go over to your local donut shop to log in their weekly receipts. You settle in amidst a mountain of little green "guest checks" and begin posting the daily sales. After your fingers are aching and your eyes are crossing you complete your task. Well, task number one in any case. Next you need to post the expenses to your column pad or if you are lucky, the business owner has a "One-Write" system that makes reconciling easier and you don't have to deal with that messy carbon paper.

 

Fast forward to the end of the 20th century. Computers are in offices and businesses all over the world. Bookkeepers are using programs like QuickBooks, Peachtree and Microsoft Business to capture transactions and reconcile the bank accounts. They can even generate an income statement with a click of their mouse. This must be the apex of bookkeeping efficiency, the Mt. Everest of electronic tools, the profession has reached its most efficient state ever. Hoorah!

 

Wait.

What are apps?

What is remote access?

What is value pricing?

Hey, I thought I was cutting edge!

 

I have cut my work time down by 2/3 and have three times as many clients on hourly billing as before. I thought I was doing great.

It is a very new and strange world out there, folks. For some it is exciting adventure of learning and experimenting and for others, a terrifying abyss of choices and potential disasters.

What can do we do to adapt to new business owners that don't even have an office?

First, we need a plan. We should decide what kind of bookkeeping business we want to have be and how we need to change our current business in this new environment. Do we want any clients on a desktop accounting software? Do we want to incentivize our current clients to get onto a cloud based program? Do we want to specialize? Do we want to have a fixed fee pricing model? Do we want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over our head until this all passes?

I want to tell you that you do not have to buy a spacesuit and a jet pack to join 21st century bookkeeping services. You don't even have to upend your practice and start over to harness and exploit the new amazing technologies. It is all about baby steps, both for you and for your clients.

After you have decided that you want to practice cloud bookkeeping, you will need to make a choice about which accounting program you want to primarily use and support.

The reason I say support is because your clients need to work with the program and you must be able to answer questions and do some basic troubleshooting.

Our office is dedicated to using Intuit products. I have colleagues that use Xero and some that use desktop accounting programs that are hosted in the cloud. The program choice is more dependent on what kind of clients you have, or wish to have. We have clients on QuickBooks Desktop and Online, hosted on our cloud, hosted on the client's cloud and even on the client's local server. The reason we can accommodate this amount of variety is twofold. First, we have a diverse client base that includes needs that currently cannot be served by a single software solution. Second, we have systems in place that allow us to treat the client setups so similarly they are quite indistinguishable from one another.

I can work on any client file with just my iPad if I choose, with no loss of efficiency. I can review, reconcile, create reports and then email those reports to clients with valuable notes and suggestions. My work space is 12"x 22" and my work place is literally anywhere in the world. I can conduct face to face meetings with my phone, while using a remote meeting application to show my clients important information and I have been known to have telephone conferences in my pajamas and bunny slippers.

 

Does this way of working appeal to you?

Does this freedom make you drool, just a little?

Here is what you are going to need.

1.  Good Wi-Fi. If you don't have it, invest in it. Get as good as you can get in your area. If you have a brick and mortar office and work from home, get the best in both locations. It is worth whatever the price might be because your wi-fi reliability determines how quickly you can manipulate your client’s data.

2.  Online accounting software. Make your choice based on where you want to be one year from now. We chose a little more than a year ago and selected QuickBooks Online. QBO got a bad rep early on because, well, it deserved it. There is a big BUT here. Intuit has invested an incredible amount of resources to make this product worthy of your second look. We did and we have even moved our own firm's books onto QBO this summer. 

3.  Get certified. It is important to get certified in whatever program you are using. I don't say this just so that you get a badge to put on your website or so that you can get listed in the software's esteemed list of certified advisors. Nothing teaches you more about a subject than being tested on it. For the most part, we only learn a portion the technology we use and frequently for bookkeepers we just become proficient in the "how to" of posting or reconciling within the program. These certifications reinforce what you do know (that gives you confidence) and allows you to test what you don’t know (better during testing than sitting in front of a client).

4.  Be aware of the add ons. No online accounting software does it all. It is a platform that allows each client to get only what they need in add ons and none of what they don't need. Most of these add on applications are subscription based, as are the accounting software so make sure when you put your bookkeeping packages together for prospects you include those subscription costs. You don’t necessarily need to be an expert on these programs but when in doubt refer to step 3.

Next: Putting Technology Together to Make Your Practice Work