Published in the ABN Bookies Bulletin in September 2015.

Last year Peter Thorp from the Australian Bookkeepers Network (ABN) gave a great presentation on how the industry has changed over the last 10 years. Peter put up a challenge to the audience asking attending bookkeepers to ponder on where they thought the industry may be in 10 years’ time. It was great to take some time out and reflect on the changes that have occurred and on how we used to do things, as opposed to what would now be considered standard practice.

We live in a world which is constantly changing around us, whether it be related to technology, climate, politics, social, or any number of other areas you can think of. Amidst all of this change, the challenge is to adapt, survive and potentially prosper. This in itself is not that easy. This is no more apparent than in the bookkeeping industry, where traditional ways of engaging and servicing clients is in a rapid state of change, largely driven by technological advancements.

Consider the change that has happened over the past 10 years; the advent of online and cloud technology has opened up a world of possibilities and productivity driven advancements. Real-time collaboration between the accountant, bookkeeper and the client is now considered the norm. Bank feeds delivered directly into the accounting platform to ensure data integrity and minimise laborious reconciliation tasks are now a no-brainer. Automatic document scanning and linking to accounting transactional data is emerging and is only getting smarter and more sophisticated. With the number of add-on solutions that can be bolted on to an accounting ledger system growing daily.

So where does this leave the bookkeeper? Well, one thing is for certain, that if all of this change is happening around them, then it stands to reason that that they themselves will need to change, and review how they engage and interact with their clients. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does require some planning, and an analysis of how they have done things in the past, versus what would be considered best practice in the future. The challenge is to keep moving forward, amidst all of this change. As Albert Einstein famously said; “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.”.

So, what are some of the strategies that can be adopted, to ensure you don’t ‘fall off the bike?’ We don’t pretend to be experts in this field, but we can share with you some of the observations we have seen, and appearing to gain momentum in the bookkeeping industry.

Fixed Fee Billing

Add value with the adoption of technology to gain efficiency and provide a more extensive service, thus being able to charge with fixed fees. We have over the years listened in on specialist “fixed fee biller” Kerrie Jarius from Fax ‘n’ Figures (also better known for her role on the ABN board). Her story on how she switched to this value-based charging, quite opposite to the traditional ‘per hour’ billing is always inspiring – her wisdom on how to tackle the transition is invaluable.

Increased Collaboration

Join forces in the advisory space. Create relationships between Accountants and Bookkeepers to have a win-win referral base and continue to provide a quality service to your clients. More accountants are moving into the bookkeeping space, and more bookkeepers are moving into the advisory/accounting space. New style practices are now appearing which offer a one-stop-shop, from data-entry and bookkeeping, right through to high-end accounting and advisory services. The accountants haven’t suddenly gone out and become great bookkeepers, nor have the bookkeepers suddenly gone out and become great accountants. But, they have forged relationships and joined forces, which has proved beneficial to both parties, and they now work seamlessly together for the common goal of servicing their clients to the best of their ability. Why try and steal clients from each other? Join forces and deliver efficiencies and services that are second to none.

More Client Time

Maintain strong relationships with your client, to engage clear communication through all channels. This not only benefits you in your work but the client feels more at ease with human contact rather than a robot crunching numbers. This in itself may seem like an oxymoron for many people in the industry, as the traditional methodology of time billing is being challenged with the advent of new technology. This technology is enabling tasks to be undertaken in a quicker amount of time, thereby reducing billable hours, so this can’t be good for the practice’s bottom line. But, what this does do, is free up more time for the accounting/bookkeeping professional to focus on higher value services for the client, such as planning and forecasting. This has much more benefit to the client than traditional data entry and compliance, and also enables practices to steer clear of pricing pressures from the market. It becomes more about value, and how reliant the client becomes on you, rather than just ensuring their books are up to date.

It’s All About The Future

Look to the future with technology to add substance and save time on the basic things, thus creating more time to add value and earn more. One thing we know for sure is that we are now firmly entrenched in a technology driven industry, and gone are the days of just being good with numbers and knowing your ‘debits and credits’. This can be somewhat overwhelming for the professional in practice. So, if it is overwhelming for you, then how do you think your poor old clients are feeling? Therein lies the opportunity for the professional to step in and help the client transition and navigate through all of this technological change. One more reason why the client will ‘Value’ what you do.

As technology is at the forefront of this changing environment it is important to note one aspect of this sector that will never change – PEOPLE. The human aspect of this business is what drives it, the relationships between clients and their Accountant or Bookkeeper will always stay relevant. Technology cannot relate to clients or even mimic human engagement. It can, however, make our lives easier and automate processes that humans find labour intensive.

We here at Calxa are at the pointy end of all this change, and understand that all of this does not happen overnight within an organisation. Just like you, who is dealing face-to-face with small business owners and not-for-profit organisations, we are challenged daily to use productivity tools to improve our processes. To this end, we endeavour to provide our partners and users with many mediums for them to efficiently adopt some of this technology. We also like to help you answer many common questions from clients, in an easy and clear way that your clients will understand. We also understand that with change, come challenges. If Calxa happens to be an integral component of your change process, then we make sure to assist, empower, educate and support you, and give you the greatest chance of implementing positive change, with the least amount of disruption to you and your clients.

ABN and Calxa have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years. Calxa’s discounted licences to ABN members assists many in reaching their goals and making their clients more sustainable. Check out the Member Deals Webpage to get your 20% discount.

If you would like to learn more about Calxa, please visit our events page for our upcoming Calxa Webinars for Accountants and Bookkeepers.

This article was published in the ABN Bookies Bulletin in September 2015.