The Collaborative Online Model for Small Business Accounting Professionals

Accountants and bookkeepers serving small business clients are facing a growing problem – how to provide services that are valuable to the client in a way that makes it profitable for the provider.  Part of the problem is that small business, while they need quality accounting and bookkeeping services, have a hard time paying for it unless the person doing the work is sitting in the office producing tangible reports and paperwork all day long (and maybe answering the phone while they’re at it).  Accountants and bookkeepers working with a variety of small business clients can’t be profitable when they have to travel to client offices to do the work or pick up and deliver files and paperwork, and they certainly aren’t expecting to be the office receptionist while they’re there.

The solution for both is an online working model, where the outsourced professional and their client can both login together.  Each accesses the applications and data to get their work done, and is able to access when and where they need to.  Online accounting approaches help service providers increase their profitability at the same time they increase their level or range of service provided to clients.  With a collaborative online accounting model, professionals and their clients can work from anywhere at any time, giving both the freedom to focus on what needs to get done.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the bookkeeping or accounting solution has to be an “online” service, per se.  Looking at the accounting product alone isn’t often the best way to solve the mobility and managed service problem for the client, which is really what “online” for the client is about.  The fact that their service providers (accountants, bookkeepers, etc.) can also work in the system is of secondary benefit to the client.  The worst thing an accounting pro can do is tell their client they have to switch accounting solutions just to make it easier for the accountant or bookkeeper.  It makes sense to improve that situation, but accounting/bookkeeping isn’t generally the entire IT requirement for the business client.

An online working model enables collaboration with team members and providers alike.  Reducing or eliminating the requirement for sophisticated technology solutions is the key element, providing everyone the ease-of-use and security of server-based computing.   The real benefits include centralization of business application management, protection data resources, and the ability to more fully streamline business processes.   For many businesses, the earned benefit is increasing the capacity to do business profitably simply by making the current working model much more efficient and effective.   The benefits are there for both the client is collaborators to experience, and this is where the focus should be – on the benefit to the small business.

Accounting professionals can also seamlessly increase their own opportunity and value by embracing a collaborative online working model.  Through the use of outsourced bookkeeping, payroll services and other providers, accountants can increase or expand the services they offer to clients by seamlessly incorporating them into the overall offering.  An online approach makes this possible, and can position these valuable services as the key to client business success. Working online together, professional service forms and their contractors or outsourcers can work closer than ever before, and the accounting professional is positioned to deliver far more value to the business client.

An online working model improves the profitability of the professional practice, too. The movement of information from one place to another, the restructuring of information from one form to another… these are processes that represent the cost and inefficiency in the professional accounting office.  By working online in client accounting solutions along with the client, firms can reduce or eliminate redundant and time-consuming work that is the bane of the practice. Bookkeeping, property tax compliance work, payroll, HR and benefits administration – these are areas where outsourcing may make the most sense for the practice while enabling accountants to increase the overall value of service provided.

Does your professional practice offer valuable business services like these for your clients? Profitably?

A collaborative online working model can enable your firm to deliver the range of services business clients need most while improving the bottom line for both.

Joanie Mann Bunny FeetMake Sense?


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