The role of bookkeepers and accountants appears to be converging into similar territory with boundaries becoming blurred, as the industry adopts emerging technologies and increased automation occurs. Accountants are moving into the traditional bookkeeping space and bookkeepers are moving into the traditional accounting space. With the time-savings becoming more transparent, the traditional billing method based on ‘time’ becomes a model that is more difficult to justify to clients.

Some things will never change though. Accountants and bookkeepers provide specialist skills and services in servicing their clients, as well as being the trusted advisor to the small business owner. There are boundaries as to what type of advice can be given. Obviously, bookkeepers cannot provide advice on things that are specific to the accounting profession, such as tax law and the like. But, in many ways, the bookkeeper can provide guidance and much needed support to the small business owner based on a much closer relationship they nurture.

Intimacy is Key when Looking into Future

We see bookkeepers becoming an invaluable resource to the small business owner when guidance as to what may be laying ahead in the future is needed. Identifying storm clouds on the horizon is an important part of forecasting. The intimate knowledge of what has happened in the past is the key to laying the foundation for a solid budget or cashflow forecast.

And with bookkeepers engaging with the client quite often on a monthly or more frequent basis, they are in a very good position to identify the cyclical or seasonal trends of a business. Overseeing or managing tasks such as finalising bank reconciliations, understanding the position of outstanding debtors and creditors and locking closed periods, makes the starting point for creating a budget a lot more concrete and creates a firm foundation for this task. In comparison, this cannot be said for the accountant who only meets with the client maybe once or twice a year and won’t have the same level of familiarity resulting in more uninformed assumptions.

Bookkeepers are Gatekeepers

The Calxa Partner community is extensively made up of bookkeepers from around the country. Not only are they the specialist in keeping the books but they are the gatekeepers alarming their clients on upcoming ‘hot spots’ averting possible disaster.

Utilising tools such as Calxa which seamlessly integrates to mainstream accounting packages, takes away the concerns of data integrity, as all of the forecast numbers can be easily populated based on historical ledger information. And, as the bookkeeper has been overseeing the data entry process, they can be assured that the historical information is accurate and up to date, which ensures that the projection produced is as accurate as possible. In this setting the bookkeeper becomes invaluable contributing significantly to the sustainability of the small business community.

This becomes even more pertinent when the bookkeeper is a member of an association such as ICB, as they have demonstrated their competencies, attained accreditation, and have an intimate knowledge of the bookkeeping process.

Delicate Conversations

The other factor that works in the bookkeepers favour, is that the client may be more open to discussing sensitive issues. If, for example, the client is drawing more money out of the business than can be afforded or they have an idea that taking on more debt will solve their cashflow problems… this may be where the bookkeeper sometimes has that frank conversation. Providing simple, maybe visual, reports may help the client understand that things may need to change, moving forward. This can be a subtle way of steering the client in the direction of acknowledging their own behaviour resulting in sensible decisions to avert a catastrophe down the track.

Starting the Conversation

It may be as simple as being able to tell the client what their expected BAS payments may be for the next six months. Or, showing them the bottom line that tells them that they can’t afford that new car they have been talking about.

Forecasting doesn’t have to be about producing a 5 year business plan. It is about looking out for the client. Having that close affiliation, bookkeepers want the best for their clients. Ensuring that they are compliant with the ATO and paying their bills on time is one thing, steering the client in the right direction with some guidance can lead to even stronger and more rewarding relationships between bookkeepers and their clients. And this has been never more important, as the industry becomes more commoditised through technology and automation. It can set the bookkeeper apart from the competitor down the road. Keeping Clients For Life – that’s what it’s all about.

Calxa have an active Partner Program consisting of bookkeepers and accounting professionals. With more than 130 partners in Australia and abroad, Calxa supports them with one-on-one mentoring to ensure that they have the confidence and tools to provide additional and relevant client services. If you would like to enquire about their Partner Program, contact Calxa’s Partner Relations Manager at [email protected]. Check out the ICB Website for more information and to get the special ICB member discount on Calxa products.

This article was first published in the September 2015 ICB Newsletter.