Why Bookkeeping as a Brand Needs To Changeby
The past few years have challenged the traditional definition of “bookkeeper.” While those centuries-old services bookkeepers have offered remain relevant, the pandemic has pushed many bookkeepers into new roles as businesses lean on them for advice to stay afloat.
As we prepare for 2022, bookkeepers have a unique opportunity to set (or reset) their expectations and vision. In fact, now is the right moment to ask: is the term “bookkeeper” due for a new definition?
Our recent State of Bookkeeping Practices Survey suggests the answer is yes. Bookkeepers are in a prime position to redesign and rebrand their offering to meet client needs in 2022— and for those already embracing this change, the survey shows high growth.
So whether resolutions or just a fresh perspective are how you like to kick off the new year, here are three areas to focus on that can help you capitalize on a new year and a new you.
Although many bookkeepers are using the cloud and adopting more digital processes, the industry is still building up to a digital revolution. Piles of paper invoices and sticky notes with scribbled reminders continue to clog up back-office operations. Our survey found that bookkeepers give themselves a 6.7/10 on digital transformation—plenty of room to improve as technology becomes central to every profession.
Quite a few bookkeepers are already planning to improve their digital and analytic capabilities within the next year. We found that while 32 percent of bookkeepers already deploy data analytics, another 29 percent are planning to do so before 2023.
This bodes well for the industry’s future since digitally advanced bookkeepers experience the highest levels of growth. Among those we surveyed, 80 percent of respondents who expect significant revenue increases also use or plan to use analytics-enabled software, compared to just 45 percent of other respondents.
These findings indicate that high-growth, future-ready bookkeepers are embracing digital systems and the data distilled from them to improve business insights. Updated systems can help bookkeepers guide clients toward the right decisions by offering real-time data consolidated in one location, while building digital processes into workflows helps optimize time and resources.
For example, AP automation can reduce up to 50 percent of time spent on payments, which gives employees freedom to focus on strategic tasks or advisory services. Digital processes can truly fuel professional and financial growth.
Demand for new and existing client services is surging as businesses grapple with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The top three challenges clients face include keeping businesses open (30 percent), increasing costs (27 percent) and employee recruitment or retention (17 percent).
Bookkeepers are now stepping in to provide critical pieces that help solve these problems and should be prepared to do so much more in the future. Our research has shown that the fastest-growing bookkeepers are the ones who have become true business advisors to help address client challenges. Among those who expect significant revenue growth, 85 percent currently provide advisory services, compared to 70 percent of other respondents.
Offering financial or business advice may not be the right move for every firm—but all bookkeepers can benefit from increased service offerings. An incredible 84 percent of bookkeepers expect a revenue increase this year, with 37 percent forecasting significant revenue increases.
To maintain this momentum, ask yourself how you can help clients address their biggest obstacles. What services could you offer that would help? How can the back end of their business provide insights into the problem or offer a solution?
Digital data can help unlock the answer to this question and many others. Forget shifting through stacks of folders and consider what will help bring clients closer to a real-time view of their cash flow or month-end results. Follow the high-growth, modern bookkeepers and take the first steps to digitize processes and data to help clients make better decisions and arm yourself with more insight.
The rise of advisory and tech-driven services, as well as the popularity of hybrid work models, is changing how and where bookkeepers operate. Many are taking the opportunity to re-architect their day-to-day jobs or plan for the “next normal.” For example, 20 percent of bookkeepers want to spend more time on client analysis and strategy, while 34 percent are actively preparing for more remote work in the future.
As you prepare for the New Year, define your own work-life priorities. Do you want to try living in a new city? Working with colleagues from other departments? This is the prime time to adjust your situation. To meet those goals, what do you need to change, automate or adjust in how you deliver your work to your clients?
Even more bookkeepers (69 percent) plan to expand their teams despite staff shortages in every industry. Future-ready firms are hiring talent with new skill sets and non-traditional experience. These digital natives can make the most of automation to focus on more consultative work.
At the same time, bookkeepers are arming existing employees with tools and training to add value. Upskilling existing staff is a priority for 50 percent of bookkeepers. Do you count yourself among them?
Bookkeeping may be a 500-year-old practice, but that doesn’t mean it has to be stuck in the past. Modern bookkeepers provide much more than columns of debits and credits—they are painting a real-time picture of a business’s financial health—and they’re doing that through data and insights powered by technology and new workflows that can better meet or exceed clients’ needs. This shift most definitely warrants a revised definition of “bookkeeper.”
So when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, pick it up and run with it. Adjust your workstyle, invest in your team, redesign how you serve clients and become a newly redefined YOU this planning season.
Jeannie Ruesch works as the Director of Marketing at Bill.com and has been in the accounting profession for more than seven years. She previously worked at Xero and The Sleeter Group. She has more than 20 years’ experience in brand creation and strategy, design, social media development, demand gen, and customer marketing.