Accounting Technology Updates: Adding a ProAdvisor Keeps Firms Current

Sonia Tramel, a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor® and tax consultant, recently began working with a CPA firm in Southern California — and while that’s not necessarily unusual, her certification in QuickBooks® has proved very valuable for the firm. Here’s what she had to say about the benefits of being a ProAdvisor, why the QuickBooks certification is important and even a bit about client needs.

Scott Cytron: Why was it important to the firm to have a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor? Couldn’t they get help with QuickBooks elsewhere?

Sonia Tramel: Clients who know how to correctly use QuickBooks for their tax and accounting know more about their businesses, stay more productive and are able to provide a clean exchange of files at tax time.

Prior to my arrival, the firm was tax-centric due to the sheer volume of returns more than 4,000 tax returns each year. While the firm works with Lacerte® as well as QuickBooks, it couldn’t take the time to train clients how to use QuickBooks correctly. Today, the firm tells me it’s proud to have a QuickBooks ProAdvisor expert on staff to consult and train its tax clients.

Being a QuickBooks ProAdvisor also helps me stay in touch with external outside groups, primarily The Sleeter Group. Combined with my certification, I bring a technology update perspective to the office. I also passed the Enrolled Agent test. The more tax I understand, the more I can bring a tax perspective to the client’s financials. In turn, our tax return preparation becomes more accurate, efficient and timely.

Clients are happy, the partners receive good feedback on me, and the firm has more billable hours.

Scott Cytron: You spend quite a bit of time working with clients in your office. Tell me about your processes.

Sonia Tramel: One of the ways I work with clients is to ask them to bring in their laptop with QuickBooks — and then I sit down with them in the conference room. I take control of the mouse and start interviewing clients to learn more about their business and operations, while cleaning up the books at the same time. I work with QuickBooks for Mac as well.

I start by focusing on the Chart of Accounts, because I consider this to be the backbone of any client’s financials. Then, I explain the difference between the Balance Sheet and the Profit & Loss statement. Most people have no understanding of the Balance Sheet. Because everyone understands income and expenses, they want to post everything to the Profit & Loss statement.

Next, I focus on Balance Sheet accounts, telling them that all these account balances need to be reconciled or confirmed, not just the checking account.

I like to say that your business financials tell a story, and it should be the right story. I tell them that if all Balance Sheet accounts are reconciled or confirmed, then the P&L will naturally shake out.

Then, I teach them to read their Balance Sheet in the tax return and make sure their QuickBooks financials match. There is also a big need to teach the use of classes over duplicate Charts of Accounts, especially with multiple rental properties.

Scott Cytron: How does remote access help?

Sonia Tramel: With “GoToMeeting,” a problem can be solved in 10 to 15 minutes. The end result is more client contact, but not an overwhelming amount. In most cases, just a short session works. With GoToMeeting, you can’t get on unattended, so the process takes away any liability issues. I have also set up a few clients with remote hosting. They tell me how great it is to see timely financials whenever they want, instead of waiting for the next month. Remote hosting also allows us to share the bookkeeping tasks if you want to do this.

Scott Cytron: From the client’s perspective, when you help them improve their bookkeeping, what is the biggest takeaway or benefit for them?

Sonia Tramel: The clients are happy that their books are in good order. With enough data, a pattern has been set for them to know how to continue. They feel grateful, saying very few CPA firms will take the time to do this with them, and they know they can call or email if they are stuck with a specific entry or a QB problem.

In addition, we are about to start using ProLine Practice Management, so the firm’s partners will be able to view a console of where all the tax work is in the office.