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Do Bookkeepers Have to Become Strategic Advisors?


Not every bookkeeper wants to become a strategic advisor. So, is this okay? Contributor Billie Anne Grigg says yes.

Nov 26th 2019
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There is a global push for bookkeepers to become strategic advisors. Some of the reasons for this push are fear-based. The threat posed by the rise of artificial intelligence and automation is an excellent example of a fear-based reason to transition to the role of strategic advisor.

Other reasons for this push focus more on client needs: Small business owners crave the same advice larger businesses often take for granted, but there are many more small businesses than there are accountants. This supply and demand challenge is predicted by many sources to worsen as more accountants retire and fewer young people enter the accounting field. Bookkeepers are being encouraged to step up to fill this gap.

Many bookkeepers embrace the opportunity to become strategic advisors. These bookkeepers find the satisfaction of guiding their clients to higher levels of profitability or helping them utilize technology effectively more fulfilling than the day-to-day work typically associated with bookkeeping. Offering advisory services can also command higher rates than traditional bookkeeping services do.

But not every bookkeeper wants to become a strategic advisor. Some bookkeepers are happy to “just” do the bookkeeping. They get immense joy out of maintaining a clean set of books their clients can use to make better business decisions.

If you’re a bookkeeper who is happy doing the books, and if you don’t really want to provide advisory services, you might be wondering if there will be a market for your services in the coming years.

I think the answer to this is yes.

There Is No “Just” to Doing the Books

Artificial intelligence and automation have already made data entry practically obsolete. Most accounting software can now automatically categorize and post transactions to the books without anyone ever having to interact with the transaction.

Most of the time.

Software – like humans – is not infallible. Just as it’s a best practice to review work before handing it over to a client, it’s a best practice for a bookkeeper to review books where automated features are enabled to ensure accuracy.

This will not change.

The best computer software – just like the best human – will continue to make mistakes, and it will need to be overseen by a qualified bookkeeper. You are the first and last line of defense to ensure your clients’ software is set up properly and functioning as it should to provide your clients with timely and accurate financial information.

Not All Business Owners Want to Rely Solely on Automation

Many business owners have already tried to rely on automation in their bookkeeping, only to discover they either didn’t set up the software correctly or the automation made errors that resulted in inaccuracies in their financial statements… inaccuracies the business owner couldn’t fix on their own. These business owners – while not opposed to automation and AI – don’t feel comfortable relying on it completely. They want to work with a qualified bookkeeper who understands not only how the software is supposed to work, but also how accurate financial statements are supposed to look. Someone who knows how to fix any errors created and who can take steps to ensure they aren’t repeated.

This puts non-advisory bookkeepers in a great position to step up as experts, just as their advisory counterparts have done. And with this expertise comes higher earning potential.

Advisory Services Require Solid Bookkeeping

The bookkeepers who are transitioning away from traditional bookkeeping and focusing more on advisory services often face challenges finding employees or contractors with solid bookkeeping skills. This pulls the strategic advisor back into doing the bookkeeping, which in turn keeps them from having as much time as they would like to provide advisory services to their clients.

Non-advisory bookkeepers have an opportunity to partner with advisory bookkeepers to fill this gap. This is a win-win situation for both parties, as it allows each type of bookkeeper to grow their businesses in the manner they wish, while providing excellent service to their clients.

The Accounting Software Leader in the US Is Hiring Bookkeepers

QuickBooks Live is making waves in the bookkeeping and accounting world. Whether you view Intuit’s new live bookkeeping service as a threat to or an opportunity for your bookkeeping business, it’s extremely telling that this leader in AI and automation is hiring human bookkeepers to support small business owners by providing bookkeeping – not advisory – services.

It’s Okay to Be “Just a Bookkeeper”

If providing advisory services to your clients excites you, then you should build your business in a way that allows you to do so. The demand is there, and you can earn great money with these services while making a tremendous positive impact in your clients’ businesses and lives.

If you prefer to focus on the bookkeeping itself, then you should build your business around that service instead of being concerned about becoming advisory. As with advisory services, the demand for sound bookkeeping still exists – and it will continue to exist, regardless of software enhancements. You will have to change the way you communicate what you do and the value of the services you provide to your clients, though. In some cases, your client might even be another bookkeeper.

Be prepared to combat the perspective held by some business owners that the software will just handle all the bookkeeping for them. Seek to educate these business owners about how you ensure the bookkeeping is done accurately, serving as a sort of accounting manager for their bookkeeping software automation bot.

Above all, look beyond the fear that you must become a strategic advisor to your client “or else.” As with all change, there is plenty of opportunity to build your bookkeeping business in the way you want to build it, providing the services you want to provide. You only have to look for it.

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