Confused.com

So the rulebook which us bookkeepers have been using for the last forever has just been ripped up and put in the bin. Well that’s what it feels like to me and I know I’m not alone!

Over the last few years we have experienced an enormous change in our industry predominately led by the software companies. I think we have done well, collectively, to embrace these changes. We have had to learn these new software’s, adopt new ways of working in the cloud, gain new qualifications/certification, deal with the shift to Value Pricing moving away from the old business model of billing per hour (and this is difficult). We have spend hours educating our clients in how to read these new reports that we spend hours preparing even though they are suppose to appear at the press of a button (I can assure you they do not).

So after all our work embracing and complying with the new cloud software companies it appears they have just cut us bookkeepers out of the loop. There is a huge amount of money being spent on marketing campaigns, aimed directly at business owners, with the message that they can manage their own bookkeeping needs. From an experienced perspective I know that the majority of business owners do not have the knowledge or time to run the bookkeeping element of their business. However, I can also see that this message is a powerful one, to many business owners it could be perceived that my services can now be replaced by a monthly subscription of approx. £20….Ouch.

Personally I’m not surprised by the new marketing strategy, Xero has always made it clear their target was business owners and what a better way to initially access the market then via bookkeepers. It’s a marketing strategy that has been used by other industries. For example, think back to the introduction of mobile phones. I only knew the handset brands, eg Nokia, Motorola. It was news when suddenly Vodafone and O2 started being spoken about. We had all clearly been using their services as the network provider, but by default as we bought air time with the handset. Whereas now we are all aware of the deals the network providers offer and shop around accordingly. Significantly we now actually shop for two products, the handset and the network. The lesson I take for this is that there is room in the market for both products and similarly there is room in the market for accounting softwares alongside bookkeepers. In fact they actually complement each other.

As bookkeepers we need to be clear in our offering and continue to promote our services. However we need to be mindful that compliance work is now a given and its our contribution to the development of a business that is important. There needs to be continued education aimed at business owners setting out the pros and cons of managing their own finances, and also demonstrate where bookkeepers can add value. Maybe we need to think of ourselves in terms of the mobile handset and develop “apps” to stay relevant!

Love to now your thoughts

Sarah Palmer, FIAB, owner of Women Who Count.

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