When it comes to automation, accountants have regularly struggled with it taking skilled work away and freeing up time to be more productive. So which is it?
Automation has been an intimidating, yet essential part of the human workforce for generations. Today, automating tasks with software poses the very same combinations of challenges and benefits of the mechanical devices of generations passed. The trade-off has always been balanced between the two aforementioned oppositional viewpoints.
Many accountants are still stuck in the billable-hour game and are therefore hesitant to embrace automation. They fear that automation will lead to a double-whammy of decreased hours to bill (because work gets done faster) and higher expenses (because of additional software costs they must pay to software vendors).
Despite these risks, most (if not all) accountants can benefit by automating the tasks that free up their mind to provide professional analysis, guidance and wisdom to their clients. After all, clients come to us to be their trusted partner through important, high-stakes situations and not for our ability to do arithmetic.
Because my client base is startups, the vast majority of whom are burning venture capital dollars and not generating profits, I have to hit a reasonable (some might say low) price point to attract and retain business. The desire to service as many clients as possible, coupled with the need to hit a low price point led me to embrace as much automation as possible.
The more we can automate, the more my team and I can spend quality time, partnering with clients through funding rounds and other pivotal moments. I also highly encourage my clients to automate as much of the back office work as possible so they can reduce their burn rate while retaining a rigorous system of documentation and organization.
Building integrated, automated solutions for hundreds of startups has yielded a repository of lessons that every accountant and bookkeeper can benefit from. Here are a few tasks automation has helped my firm streamline and ones I believe all accountants (who haven’t already) should automate today:
Easy, consistent payroll can be a challenge for rapidly scaling businesses. Often times, a single HR employee is left to manage an exponentially increasing amount of work that can create a bottleneck and slow growth.
By leveraging one of the many digital payroll services on the market, founders can save time and money as well as be positioned to scale. As a fan of automation, I love services and features that allow me to put things on autopilot so things like payroll can be completed, handled digitally and ensure you won’t miss any important filings like 941 or a DE9. If you’re working with clients that typically grow their employee base very quickly, payroll automation is critical.
Get rid of paper receipts! Using a digital expense tracking service can make it extremely easy to document everything without all the tedium and headaches. These services link directly with most major accounting software, so all cataloging takes place seamlessly behind the scenes.
When done properly, the tax benefits earned by automatically tracking expenses can be enormous. Not long ago, accountants had to sift through a seemingly endless stream of receipts in shoeboxes. Given how easy some expense tracking software is to use, there’s no reason to leave this money on the table!
3. HR & Benefits
There are tons of great digital HR and benefits services out there, especially if the business is under 100 full-time employees. Most services will provide an all-in-one dashboard where you can manage your client’s benefits, offer letters, PTO, time/attendance, and tons more.
Like everything else on this list, it’s important that the service you choose plays nicely with your accounting software (almost all the big ones do), so when the client eventually asks, “exactly how much did we spend on that doggy day spa benefit last month?” you can have a precise answer for them because your benefits, expenses and accounting software have automated all the footwork for you!
As accountants, the real value we bring to our clients is our expertise, experience and guidance. The more tasks we can automate, the more time we have to bring the highest level of services to our clients.
As software and technology improves, the humanizing factors like trust, integrity and wisdom that we bring to our clients becomes the most important factor. Moreover, with the ever-growing set of software tools available to accountants today, it’s easier than ever to automate tedious tasks away so you can spend more meaningful time offering professional guidance to your client.
Pioneering ways of stitching these technologies together has realized enormous benefits for the companies we work with at my firm, so I hope you give automation a shot and start spending more time serving your clients.
Vanessa Kruze, CPA, is the founder and CEO Kruze Consulting, providing startup CFO consulting, including accounting, tax and HR services, to startups in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. Prior to establishing her firm in 2012, Vanessa began her career with Deloitte Tax and is a University of San Francisco alumni.