How Bookkeepers Can Leverage Technology to Earn More and Work Less
In this post, we will focus on how bookkeepers can leverage technology to earn more and work less. We will share technology to improve our operational efficiency and to facilitate collaboration with our clients and their other business advisors.
Before we talk about Operational Efficiency, I am going to ask you to consider the possibility that billing according to time spent on a file is not the best method. We will go into more detail on pricing in a subsequent post.
Truly great businesses focus on constant and never-ending improvements to their business processes. Bookkeepers can experience greatness in their own business by:
- Going Paperless – Paper is the ball and chain that anchors many great bookkeepers to mediocre results, keeping them from experiencing a quantum leap forward. Applications such as Hubdoc, Receipt Bank and Ledger Docs can help you and your clients go paperless very quickly. Stop sorting and shuffling paper if you have any aspirations to earn more and work less.
- Eliminating Data Entry – Taming paper is the essential first step – now, it is possible to focus on eliminating data entry. QuickBooks Online® is Intuit’s® cloud-based financial management solution. To call QuickBooks Online a bookkeeping program is a major understatement. QuickBooks Online is a powerful platform that integrates data retrieval solutions with industry-leading bank feeds to completely eliminate data entry. Data entry, as I have experienced it, is slow, inefficient and error prone. In fact, our modern keyboards are based on the QWERTY typewriter keyboard layout, which was specifically designed to reduce typewriter jams by slowing the typist down. Currently, the only way a bookkeeper charging for time can make more money is to find ways to key data in faster. Going faster, by the way, often leads to more errors. This leads to inefficiency and extra time spent reconciling accounts. Is it fair to pass this inefficiency on to the client through higher fees? Instead, I propose that we eliminate the data entry altogether and find ways to spend our time adding true value to our clients. I guarantee that your first experience with QuickBooks Online will require you to climb a steep learning curve. But, it will quickly become second nature to you and you won’t ever go back to your old paper-driven workflow. Managing data is far more lucrative than data entry.
- Improving and Documenting Systems and Processes – You must figuratively walk before you can run. As you eliminate paper and data entry, you should start creating consistent systems and processes for your business. This applies whether you are perfectly content as a solopreneur or if you have aspirations of building a large bookkeeping organization. Obviously, a single person requires far less detail and documentation. I recommend that any business owner, regardless of industry, use mind mapping software to sketch out a diagram of their workflow. Be thorough and cover your entire customer experience, from the initial introduction to starting the next accounting cycle. Focus on identifying and documenting the repetitive tasks that happen for all clients. Go deeper to identify unique steps for individual clients, too. Depending on your business needs and personality, the next step is to either write a detailed procedures manual or record audio or video tutorials. Create best practices and checklists for all steps to ensure that nothing is missed.
- Scaling Operations – The first three steps are crucial if we want to grow by scaling operations. Scaling simply means that we can increase the number of clients that we individually serve, or we can increase our team size to serve an even larger client base. I dare say that you can scale even if you keep paper around and do data entry. But, it will not be as efficient and your growth potential will be significantly reduced. Clearly documented (and followed) systems and processes are critical to real growth. I suggest that you document everything “as is” first, then go back and identify weaknesses or bottlenecks. Experiment with ways to improve operational efficiency until you have eliminated all pain in the business. You will truly be ready to scale if you have Operational Efficiency taken care of up front.
Collaboration between the client, business advisors and ourselves is absolutely critical to ensuring that clients receive accurate and timely financial information. I recommend removing all task-oriented communication from email, as important emails tend to get buried among other inbox clutter. Great collaboration tools can track deadlines and tasks with the constant need for follow up. My personal favorites include Slack, Trello, Asana and ProWorkflow. Visit my blog to see how each of these cloud solutions can facilitate collaboration.
The first secret to earning more and working less is to leverage technology for Operational Efficiency and collaboration.
As I am sure you can guess, technology will reduce the time we spend on files. In my next post, we will address secret 2: eliminating the “billable hour” so that we can be paid for the value that we deliver.