This week, we've got a special guest blogger in to talk about the relationship between bookkeepers and accountants. Heidi Seal from Bay Business Services shows us that it doesn't pay accountants/bookkeepers to view each other as mortal enemies.
Ah, accountants and bookkeepers – to those outside the financial world, they might appear to be very similar. But don't you dare confuse a bookkeeper for an accountant or vice versa, unless you want to incur their wrath.
Sometimes there can be friction between the two groups as services can be seen as competitive rather than complimentary. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of fearing accountants, bookkeepers need to embrace them. It is possible to have a mutually beneficial relationship between bookkeepers and accountants.
It’s important to note that the things that are true in our personal relationships are also important for business relationships. For a relationship to be successful and mutually beneficial, it must be based on a common goal, have clear boundaries, and promote trust, good communication, and compromise.
Bookkeepers, using these characteristics as a road map, here is how to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with accountants.
1. Pursue A Common Goal
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The end goal of any bookkeeper / accountant relationship should be delivering spectacular service and excellent results to the client. Having this as the common objective means both parties can focus on the role they play in creating this "mutual win". If both parties are shooting for this result then the focus is on 'collaboration', rather than 'competition' … and competitions always have losers. Wouldn’t you rather be collaborating than competing?
2. Setup Clear Boundaries
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Bookkeepers and accountants each have a different stage in the journey through the business accounting process. An analogy has become popular recently that puts bookkeepers in the role of nurses (taking care of the day-to-day) and accountants as the doctors (higher level diagnosis and advice).
Setting out a "memorandum of understanding" is a great way to ensure that appropriate boundaries are made clear to both parties - including confidentiality, scope of work and communication. One party overstepping boundaries will soon unravel any good relationship – so be clear and stay on-track!
3. A Relationship Based on Trust
Although a memorandum of understanding goes a long way, nothing replaces good old-fashioned integrity. Bookkeepers, you may be working alongside several accountants – choose to speak well of all you work with, maintain integrity in every task, stick within your boundaries and commit to building a relationship of trust.
Trust is about being honest, even if it's uncomfortable. Don’t overpromise and then under-deliver. Don’t give your word and then not follow through. If you come up against difficulties, admit it, get help and find a way forward. Treat both the accountant and their client as you would treat your own client!
4. Setup Communication Processes
If you’re embarking on a relationship with an accountant, get a communication strategy in place! Develop a clear pathway on how to communicate on client issues. If an accountant entrusts you with implementing software for their client or maintaining business accounts, it is both reasonable and understandable that they will want to be kept in the loop!
Whether it is using a collaboration tool such as WorkflowMax or simply cc-ing them in on significant emails, be proactive in your communication and if in doubt, check with the accountant first.
5. Its A Two Way Street
Any strong and healthy relationship goes both ways. In an ideal world, bookkeepers become a source of additional client work by feeding back triggers on to the accountant. These triggers can generate advisory work, help the accountant keep the business on track and save significant time and cost down the track.
In this same ideal world, accountants also become a source of work for bookkeepers, referring clients who need bookkeeping support and outsourcing overflow work that they do not have capacity to do. Having an open two-way relationship (where both parties can give honest feedback) should result in both professionals become better at their chosen craft.
Bookkeepers, are you working together with an accountant? If not, why not?
About the Author
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.