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The great divide between Accountants and Bookkeepers (here’s how to fix it)
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Guest post by: Noel Tiufino
How Bookkeepers engage with Accountants to deliver greater value for small business.
With technology perpetually progressing in the Accounting space, the former great divide between Accountants and Bookkeepers appears to have diminished to be a mere crack in the pavement between service offerings. The surge of SMEs towards the cloud and automation has shifted the focus of some early-adopter Accounting Firms away from a compliance-only service to advisory: value-added services like monthly V-CFO meetings to help keep businesses accountable and on track.
You might like this podcast: Cloud Accounting – Moving Offline to Online: Podcast
Lodging a tax return requires tax agent registration. Measuring business performance and reporting back to a business owner in their own language does not, so we’ve recently seen a move downstream from some Accounting Firms into what could be considered Bookkeeping territory and a move upstream from enthusiastic Bookkeepers into what could be considered Accountant territory. This is a very real case of 50 shades of grey and some would argue that this new space is just as sexy.
So how can we build a bridge to ensure we’re all travelling in the same direction?
The perfect relationship between the SME, Bookkeeper and Accountant
When we on board a new client, one of the first pieces of information we collect from them is the details of their Accountant. We employ a triangle engagement to ensure the SME, the Bookkeeper and the Accountant are always on the same page and moving in the same direction.
There are 3 things that need to happen to ensure this is possible.
The needs of the business are accurately scoped at the beginning of the relationship.
Sit down and map out each task in the accounts process. This is the most important time to ask questions about the needs and wants of the business owner.
The role of each party is clearly defined
Ensure that it is clearly identified who is responsible for each task and when it needs to be actioned by.
There is regular communication
Establish scheduled times for each party to check in and collaborate. Sometimes it will involve all 3 points of the triangle, and sometimes just 2 but it’s important to have a schedule to start with. For example it’s best practice to have a quick phone call between all 3 parties after calculation but prior to lodgement of a quarterly BAS.
How to communicate & deliver real value
Aside from the scheduled catch ups, each party should feel comfortable to contact each other when required and it should be known what the preferred method of communication is. For example, I like scheduled phone calls, so often a quick email to let me know you plan to call regarding the last set of monthly accounts at 1pm on Tuesday gives me an opportunity to either block out the time or suggest a better time prior to playing phone tag. Also crucially, there shouldn’t be a fear of getting billed for quick communication.
With this kind of synergistic relationship, the client receives the most value from both the Bookkeeper and Accountant. I’ll repeat this in a slightly different way – the client will benefit most from the effective collaboration between their Bookkeeper and Accountant, rather than a Bookkeeper and Accountant competing for fees or for the attention and affection of their clients.
It is not as important who delivers the information, but it is important that a business owner knows that they can rely on a consistent and complete service that empowers them to grow and thrive in their respective markets. This is the greatest value a business owner can receive.
Got a different view? Let me know below….
Author: Noel Tiufino – Director, Myaccounts.com.au