See yourself as a personal trainer — for business
ACCOUNTANTS DO GREAT WORK for their clients (so be sure to see our EOFY checklist and our EOFY series of blogs for tax preparation for how to keep ’em happy). Accountants find ways to help them save money, make money, and improve the profitability of their businesses. But too many accountants spend too much of their time on compliance work, when they should be focussed on the kind of work that will help their clients grow successful businesses.
When cloud accounting software entered the market, many accountants thought it signalled the end of the bookkeeping profession. However, plenty of bookkeepers have in no way lost out to accountants (and we’ve given reasons as to why and how in previous blogs) but, rather, have found myriad ways to stay relevant.
Just some of these include becoming BAS or tax agents, providing software training to their clients and focussing on niche industries. And as more people start their own businesses, bookkeepers are as relevant as ever. It’s accountants who aren’t!
Talk to your clients about growth
As an accountant you understand numbers and what a business needs to do to grow. These are insights many business owners lack because they’re too close to their business to see that there are different ways of doing things. Instead of providing run-of-the-mill compliance services to your clients, offer services that will help them to focus on the ways they can grow their business, whether it’s by focussing on different KPIs or by establishing new processes.
Your role, here, is to work out the projects to be implemented and tested, then setup the systems to measure the results. It’ll be up to you to monitor the results and hold the client accountable. Think of it as being a personal trainer, except for businesses not people.
Help your clients manage cashflow
Cashflow is a huge problem for a lot of businesses, and it’s most often caused by poor credit management processes. However, in some cases, it’s also caused by businesses they spend more money than they make, or that spend money on areas of their business that isn’t revenue generating.
In each instance, as the numbers person, this is something you should be able to spot from a mile off, but which may not be obvious to your client. A lot of business owners also don’t see how inefficient credit management processes can adversely affect their business, when their business is profitable. Help your clients to understand the difference between cashflow and profit.
You need to evolve to be relevant
In a digital economy, no profession is safe from disruption. Just as bookkeepers had to evolve to stay relevant in an era of cloud accounting and DIY bookkeeping, accountants must too.
Think about the value you can bring to your clients’ businesses, and focus on providing those services — the ones they can’t do themselves or hire someone else to do for them cheaply — as opposed to spending your days knee-deep in compliance work.
EzyLearn Excel, MYOB and Xero online training courses count towards Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for bookkeepers and accountants. EzyLearn online training courses are endorsed by accountants, BAS agents and bookkeepers. Find out how CPD points can be of benefit to you.
It’s Good Business to Set Out Your Credit Management Policy at the Outset
CRITICAL TO THE SUCCESS OF ANY BUSINESS is the ability to maintain a healthy cash flow. But doing so requires effective credit management processes.
Unfortunately, too many business owners feel uncomfortable talking about credit and debt management upfront with new clients.
They (falsely) believe it begins if, and when, a customer doesn’t pay a bill. But, in fact, credit management starts much, much earlier than that — long before the two businesses even agree to work with each other, to be precise.
The 3 Stages of Credit Management
Credit management falls, generally, into 3 broad stages, beginning with how new customers are assessed before you do business with them.
If you extend a line of credit to your customers, payable on a 30-day account, then a credit check is an imperative first step. But even if you don’t offer credit, a credit check should be a routine part of the new customer set-up process.
If you provide services to customers that aren’t paid for in advance or upon receipt, and you allow that customer between 14 and 30 days to pay your invoice, you’ve essentially just extended them a line of credit.
Indeed, it’s recommended that any business, whether they’re a sole trader, freelancer or independent contractor, carry out credit checks on any new, ongoing customer for jobs over the value of $1000.
Stage 1: Assessment
The assessment stage of good credit management involves taking the following steps:
- Create credit application or work authorisation form
- Establish terms of trade
- Obtain a credit check
As long as the credit check doesn’t raise any issues of concern in relation to the business’ previous track record with paying suppliers on time, you can then decide to take them on as a client. From here you move to the next stage of credit management.
Stage 2: Management
This is the most involved stage of the credit management process, as it requires diligence to ensure your processes don’t slip. Some aspects of the management stage may require a phone call to your client to find out why they haven’t paid.
However, for the most part, cloud-accounting software has made it a lot easier to stay on top of your debtors. Ensure your process includes the following:
- Prompt invoicing (as soon as goods / services have been provided)
- Establish payment reminders, either by email or text
- Send regular statements (if customer is on a 30-day credit account)
- As soon as payment is overdue and in breach of terms of trade
- Send to debt collection.
If you speak to your client twice about an overdue invoice / account, and they still don’t make payment within an agreed time, refer them to your debt collection agency, however harsh that may seem.
Stage 3: Enforcement
Although debt collection agencies can chase a debt that’s as much as 5 years old, the older the debt, the harder it is to collect payment.
As soon as a client is in breach of your terms of trade, and your other attempts to collect payment have failed, refer the debt to your collection agency.
If debt collection is unsuccessful, you should speak to your accountant or financial advisor about writing the debt off in your next tax return.
Good Credit Management Should Mean Few Phone Calls
So the upshot of all this is a big part of a good credit management process is properly vetting all new customers before you do business with them. If this is the case, you should rarely have to pick up the phone to chase them for payment.
In that sense, credit management is not about getting on the phone. Rather, it’s about implementing a range of procedures for managing your debtors, and it begins before you even do any work for them.
We Can Help You Set Up Your Credit Management and Much More
Is your business yet to set up proper credit management systems?
Having the assistance of a reliable, experienced professional to help you do so may cost a lot less than you think. We have thoroughly-vetted, reliable bookkeepers across Australia, capable of setting up your systems so you can continue to do your bookkeeping yourself, or able to keep managing your daily or weekly bookkeeping and accounts.
In your office or in the Cloud
This can be done remotely or in person, with most of our bookkeepers tertiary qualified and able to assist in basic bookkeeping to more complex accounting tasks. These might include accounts receivable and payable and payroll, or financial strategising.
We also have registered BAS agents in our national directory. See our newly upgraded website, National Bookkeeping for more information.
There’s always Zoho Books
You may have a different opinion when it comes to paying your suppliers but I believe you should pay quickly. I’m talking mainly about service providers rather that product suppliers, but I think in small business it doesn’t matter.
Everyone loves to be paid on time and if you can get paid earlier, even better. It once took me 16 minutes to pay a supplier – OK, I was making other payments at the time, but still, it looked impressive.
I mention it today because one of my team told me that I was categorised by their accounting software as “high risk” and I wasn’t too happy – they use Zoho Books and it’s been recommended around here to team members who are just starting their own businesses as independent consultants. When I delved a little deeper I discovered that they offer automated bank feeds.
Zoho Books + Bank Feeds = Faster Reconciliation
We’re written about Zoho Books in several different blog posts about their free version which is ideal for virtual assistants, Zoho’s huge range of other cloud based software tools, and their fantastic automated tools to help you get paid faster and this time I was fascinated to learn about their banks feeds.
Zoho uses a company called Yodlee to enable Zoho Books users to get their bank feeds and they boast that “Zoho Books does not store any of your bank login credentials.“. This is a comforting feature in the cloud accounting wars that have erupted since MYOB started facing stiff competition online against SAASU, Xero and Quickbooks.
I wrote about the time saving features of bank feeds and showcased some of the training videos in our online MYOB Training Course. If you are interested there are two free training videos to help you understand bank feeds in MYOB as an overview and how to setup bank feeds in MYOB.
I discovered a great article by “Cloud Commentator” Sholto Macpherson at his Digital First blog where he wrote about all the different perspectives of modern day bank feeds and the opinions of ICB, Accountants and the software companies themselves. If you’re interested it’s an interesting and objective read.
Zoho Books is in the Clouds
Either way you look at it, the new online cloud based accounting programs give you the power to work from anywhere, the tools to get paid faster and the connectivity to complete your bookkeeping in much less time.