After spending hours and hours working late at night or on a weekend fixing a client’s accounting in order to get the information you need to complete your work, have you ever thought …if only I had been involved with this client throughout the year, collaborating with them real time, I would not be having to do this now? Maybe when you had this thought in the wee hours of a late night working, your thoughts possibly had more explicatives included – we have all had those moments! We end up in these situations if our clients drive the accounting and software decisions, and we are left cleaning it up and then duplicating efforts to get the work done that we need to do in our firm’s software, often having to write off some of that duplication of effort or clean-up. Because of this situation, we are tied to the accounting cycle of too many hours this time of year and being chained to our desk. We are people too after all; some quality of life would be nice! If we have more control of the accounting, true collaboration with the client and real time access to their financials, would that help provide the quality of life we need and streamline the work throughout the year?
Well, let’s take a look back at how we got here…
When Accountants worked with their clients before there were computers, clients were completely dependent on their Accountant to get an understanding of what their financials for their business looked like. This left clients receiving old financial information since typically they had to wait for months after the business activity actually occurred to get their financials from their Accountant. For people like my mother and grandmother that were running businesses before the age of automated accounting, this kept them blind to current day operating and financial decisions that needed to be made in their businesses. This made business owner unhappy since they had a lack of control of how fast they could review their financial information from their Accountant and make decisions.
Then the tables turned - desktop accounting software was developed which was easier to use and targeted to business owners that allowed them to take control of their accounting. Business owners could finally learn how to do their own accounting and better predict their financial situation. Now in a perfect world, that is how it would be, and there are a small percentage of business owners that do this very well. However…it doesn’t always work out so nicely as most of us know…most business owners are not experts in accounting and designate “free” staff (i.e. themselves, wives, or someone else with a lack of accounting training that have no idea what the difference is between a debit and credit) to do the “accounting”. This leaves the accounting profession cleaning up their clients’ mess and taking a back seat in the decision making of how the accounting is going to be run and which software is the best tool for the Accountant to do their work. There are many Accountants that are experts in cleaning up what the client does in their desktop accounting software and sell that as a service. However; many others don’t want to be left to clean up the accounting their client does and have to duplicate work into a second accounting software in their firm so they can get their work done. I have heard the cry of so many Accountants over the years that they would prefer it be right in the first place, which ultimately saves time and allows them to provide more value added services like analyzing the financials and helping their clients improve their cash flow and profitability.
Now…enter the cloud! We have the best of both worlds now – a meeting of the minds as you will! As Accountants we can take control back so that we have insight into the clients’ books real time and the client also has the same real time access to their accounting records. No one is left in the dark. It gives the option back to the client to have their Accountant perform the accounting work, and they can view what they need in their Accounting system real time – and be more comfortable that what they are looking at real time is accurate! Most importantly, it provides the Accountant the platform of their choice to offer to their client. It becomes a part of the engagement. When proposing to Client Accounting Services to a prospect, the software fees are a component of the overall fee to the client from the firm (stay tuned for future blogs on how to price this!). By delivering services this way we are no longer at the mercy of the client of which software they choose. Instead we choose the accounting platform that is right for the client and has all the accounting tools we need. Additionally, it provides consistency for all of the staff of the firm to utilize, creating more profitable engagements and eliminating duplication of work.
Additionally, there is no more clean-up! Instead an Accountant can be on the front end of the accounting work and make sure it is accurate from the get go. This eliminates the chaos at year-end of trying to make sense of numbers provided by a client that did their books on their own and putting in extra hours that may or may not be billable. Busy season can be more streamlined since the Accountant is part of the client’s business all year. By being an integral piece to your client’s business, you become a fixture in the business. Your client will confide in you more on more areas of their business which typically drives additional revenue/services and especially loyalty to the firm.
As always, it is always about the relationship. What the cloud offers is an improved experience with your client by being more collaborative on a real time basis, more control over what each user on the system sees and can do, have more value-added discussions on your client’s business rather than being knee-deep in data entry discussion and provides the client the opportunity to make better decisions in their business on a daily basis. If you haven’t already started the process of moving toward the cloud and changing how you interact with your clients – it is time to take the first step. If not, you are going to be left behind by the Firms that have already started down this path and developing strong, profitable practices, as well as getting some freedom back in their life. The efficiencies you are able to drive streamlines work in your firm, provides the platform you need to do the accounting the way you want to and opens the door to new services and opportunities with clients you would have never had before. Take the first steps to regain control of the accounting and deliver your services the way you know is best for you and your client, with the flexibility to offer it the way the client wants – you and your client will both be happier in the long run!