Our favorite bookkeeping guest blogger is back! Heidi Seal from Bay Business Services shows us how the cloud can help bookkeepers revolutionize their business model.
Many business owners are choosing to cut overhead and do their accounts themselves. The advent of cloud-based accounting allows clients to automate a lot of their business processes and with the clever Xero interface; many even find they’re enjoying it!
The days of business owners outsourcing their accounts function are certainly far from over, but bookkeepers are faced with a changing environment ... and this means a change of game plan.
There is an exciting opportunity for bookkeepers to position themselves as cloud consultants. And who is better to fill this position? Bookkeepers are savvy with business processes, know the ins and outs of accounting software, and are in-touch at the grassroots level of what is going on in a client’s business.
Here are the areas where a bookkeeper can add value to a business as a cloud consultant:
Implementation of cloud-accounting software
Some business owners will try to fumble their way through setting up their new cloud based accounting software, but it will usually take twice as long and be fraught with issues. Bookkeepers are experienced in extracting information from accounting systems and understand the importance of checks and balances in any conversion.
The implementation space is a perfect fit for bookkeepers, so don’t delay in adding this to your service offering!
If business owners are truly set on doing their books themselves, they will need training on how the system works and what they need to do month-to-month with their accounts. There is an opportunity for bookkeepers to provide a variety of training packages that up-skill and equip the business owner in using a new accounting interface as well as teach best practice bookkeeping.
A well trained business owner is a happy business owner, and you will find no shortage of referrals that will come your way as a result.
After training, the business owner will be let loose on their accounts. And inevitably they’ll encounter changes, problems, questions and un-anticipated scenarios. The bookkeeper is ideally positioned to provide ongoing support – whether it be packaged as a part of your initial training or as a stand along offering.
A combined in-depth knowledge of bookkeeping and accounting software means what might take the business owner a day to figure out, can be solved in a simple 5 minute conversation. That is a huge value add to any client!
Bookkeepers have a prime opportunity to show businesses ways of improving their efficiencies, saving money and increasing productivity. There are several ways of offering this including periodic management reports, sit down reviews of trading activity and introduction of complimentary add-on software.
Xero has over 200 add-on partners that could be saving your clients time and money in areas ranging from workflow management and inventory to CRM and point of sale. In this area the bookkeeper has a prime opportunity to be the answer to the business owners prayers!
So where to from here? Here are some action points in moving from bookkeeper to cloud consultant:
- Lighten your bookkeeping load. You’ll need to make room in your schedule to embrace the ‘cloud consultant’ role. This might mean taking on another staff to take care of regular bookkeeping or teaching your client to do their own. The profitability of becoming a cloud consultant outweighs regular bookkeeping, so don’t be afraid to make the move.
- Offer a review of your current clients’ software and processes. It’s always best to test the waters with current clients with whom you have a strong relationship and know their business well. Start the conversation and you might be pleasantly surprised with the welcome reception you receive.
- Build your relationship with accountants. Many accountants do not have the in-house resource to offer the ‘cloud consultant’ functions in the implementation, training and add-on space. They need to be aligned with trusted experts whom they can outsource this function to. See accountant / bookkeeper article
- Get niched. If you’re looking at launching into the realm of Xero add-ons, choose to become an expert in a few rather than average at many. Not only will this give you and your clients a better return on their investment, but you have the opportunity to develop a focused vertical strategy. What types of businesses are you really passionate about helping? Find an add-on that helps that niche and then go out and find the businesses who need your help
- Put aside time for extra-curricular learning. Moving to ‘cloud consultant’ means learning, learning, learning. Your goal is to become a trusted expert, so you need to have the knowledge to back it up. Attend webinars, read up on help and support articles, ask questions, join Linkedin groups, practice your skills on a demo company and take your initial implementations slowly. Document your processes and build resource for future use. Realise that this will take time, but it’s worth it!
Heidi Seal is the Director of Bay Business Services — A leading Bookkeeping business based in the beautiful town of Tauranga, New Zealand. She loves running, volleyball, trying new recipes, and going to local cafes. She blogs about Small Business, Cloud Computing, and more at Bay Business Services. You can follow her on Twitter @heidi_seal.