Online Accountants and Their Clients: Working Smarter, or just Closer?
There are a wide variety of ways to work closer with your clients, and the thing that you will always want to remember is that “one size does not fit all”. In other words, not every client will like using your favorite technology or software, and not every business owner will recognize your suggestions as solutions, because perhaps they did not recognize the problem in the first place. But that’s OK, and perhaps how it should be. You see, using the right tool for any given situation is the proper approach, rather than trying to shoehorn everyone into the same solution or method. With a client-centric approach, you can still develop consistent internal processes to keep your service delivery as efficient as possible, because many of the core services you provide are consistent across the client base regardless of the solution in use. The trend is to help your client work smarter, and it will bring you closer to the client than ever before.
Determining what is right for each job or task should be part of your value, whether it’s deciding how to connect remotely with your client, or helping your client find the right software system to support their tasks, with you ensuring that the integration to the accounting system is there and working properly. Where the focus was once placed on accurate data entry, now it’s on placing the proper solution in front of the user, and through the use of the solution to perform their various tasks, the necessary data is collected. Accounting professionals should recognize that the collection of information in real time facilitates better business decision making, and that they can be instrumental in delivering this decision support resource to their client.
As an example, I know the owner of a small construction business. This guy runs around with estimates, invoices, receipts, and other paperwork in his truck, and getting him to stop long enough for his bookkeeper to collect all that paper from the truck cab is one of the hardest and most annoying jobs she has. Her focus is on collecting the paper and then entering the data and getting invoices and reports out. The accountant is frequently requesting more information or clarification of data, as well as the information necessary to meet various reporting deadlines. Even after implementing QuickBooks accounting in the office for this business, the ultimate problem wasn’t solved. Certainly, the information is better-organized and accounted for once collected and entered, but the business owner still lacks timely information about the performance of his business, and sees little additional value in his accountants participation beyond the annual tax return.
On the other hand, I know another guy (landscaping this time) who has an accountant that has him use his phone to record just about everything he does as he does it. He bids a job, and sends it via email. He gets paid for a job, then snapshots a copy of the check and deposits it. Buying equipment or supplies? Sure, but electronic payment and approval tools let him track that as it happens, too (again, snapshot a copy of that receipt, etc.). For this business owner, there is more business going on because less time is being spent doing the paperwork of business. The bookkeeper in the office has the information necessary to keep things up to date, and can focus on how to streamline things even better. The accountant has a much higher quality of information – faster – upon which to advise the client (which he has time to do, because he’s not cleaning up bookkeeping data or collecting information for reports and returns). This business owner sees much more value in the participation by his accountant, because real issues are able to be identified and addressed in time to make a difference.
So, for today’s accounting professional, bookkeeper or consultant: is the idea of “working closer” with your client simply the concept of working remotely on the same systems at any given time, or is it to know more about their business and to help them do business better?
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