As technology develops at breakneck speeds, some companies are under the impression that bookkeepers are no longer relevant, or that they are no longer able to provide valuable services. You may face potential clients who turn you down because they feel a bookkeeper is a “low level” position, or try to make you offer “á la carte” services to compliment their automated solutions. Either way, you might be struggling to get consistent work or charge the higher fees that you’ve been wanting.
Thankfully, bookkeeping is far from irrelevant -- you just need to learn to adapt as the industry changes. Yes, automations can crunch numbers, but there is so much more to providing accounting services than calculations. As a bookkeeper, you’re able to offer something that is so much more valuable to your clients than anything a computer ever could provide: an indispensable, trusted advisor.
Earning that level of trust and delivering that degree of value is not out of reach. Simply by implementing a few CFO-level skills and tactics (and learning how to prove our value to potential clients), you can position yourself as someone your clients instinctively turn to as they navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of running a business.
Learning and developing CFO-level skills will put you a few notches above the bookkeeping competition, helping you stand out and demonstrate the vital services you can provide to clients. Acquiring these advanced types of services, like setting up a permanent audit trail, rolling cash forecast, month-end reporting, and strategic planning, is the secret sauce your potential client needs to know how their money flows in and out of their company (and what their financial future will look like).
Possibly more important, these CFO-level skills are processes and tools you can offer that a business owner would otherwise have to hire a full-fledged CFO to implement. You will gain confidence through having a few more advanced tools in your toolkit to help efficiently cut down on time budgets, while providing more value-add services. Plus, although your client will be able to pay less for your CFO-level services than they would for an official CFO, you will likely be claiming higher fees than you ever thought possible.
Your potential clients (and current clients) may not know it yet, but this security, stress-free cash flow, and financial guidance is what they’re looking for. All you have to do is prove it to them.
To demonstrate your incredible value to your clients, the first thing you need to do is identify and understand what they are looking for, why they’re looking for it, and what solutions you can bring to the table to address it.
For instance, every single business owner in the world wants increased cash flow not only because they want more money to take home, but also because it ensures long-term sustainability and growth potential. As a CFO bookkeeper, you are uniquely positioned to help them with tools, such as cash forecasting, and services like deep diving into analytics to recommend effective strategies to inform their decision making.
Of course, some of their wants and needs are not financial, but there are still ways you can bring value. Most business owners want to make a difference in their communities. You can regularly be on the lookout for value-enhancing ideas so they can make a positive impact. Many business owners want to create and leave a legacy for their children. You can be their gatekeeper and provide guidance for their personal finances so they have more time and energy to devote to building their product, service, or brand for the next generation.
Once you’ve identified your clients wants and needs and the solutions you can bring to them, you’re ready to implement the following two important skills that will make your clients go from seeing you as a valuable resource to an esteemed critical confidant.
First, set up a Perpetual Data Room (PDR) for each of your clients. The PDR is necessary to keep all files and documents organized and available at a moment’s notice when your clients, investors, owners, board members, or auditors need to access them quickly. Don’t worry, no construction skills are necessary! It’s all doable with a few clicks of the mouse. But don’t let the simplicity fool you.
Trying to keep files organized may seem like a no-brainer, but let's break this down. Your client has files that you must reference on a regular basis (leases, contracts, etc).
There are new documents and files that come in on a daily basis (invoices, AP, AR, receipts, etc).
And then there are documents that YOU (their accounting team) must provide and keep on record in order to comply with GAAP, and in order for other stakeholders to use in case of an audit, or even if they are needed when trying to secure additional funding.
Not only that, but do not underestimate the need to keep those files secure by managing permissions properly, and ensuring that this sensitive information/data doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
If done right, an auditor, investor, lender, or due diligence team will easily be able to find anything they need WITHOUT asking for it. That’s right. They’ll get the info they need without interrupting you, giving you back something very precious in return: your time.
Along with a PDR, it’s important to set up a Permanent Audit Trail, because like it or not, audits happen in all industries. The Permanent Audit Trail is a detailed recording and reporting of transactions and events. By creating a Permanent Audit Trail for your clients, you’ll give them peace of mind and dramatically reduce their stress levels if and when an audit does occur. Keep in mind that not all transactions will have an invoice, such as depreciation expense.
Like the PDR, when the Permanent Audit Trail is set up correctly (fully tied-out with tick-marks), it adds tremendous value by ensuring the company is audit-ready at any time. It will also save you time in the end because an auditor can find everything without needing to ask you for help. A Permanent Audit Trail starts with a transaction or event, which then goes to a source document, then on to the general ledger, which then moves on to a “trial balance tie-out” at month end (this is where we find and fix errors, add accruals and AJEs). After the month-end tie out, we add this to financials, then move on to value added reports (such as rolling cash forecast). Done right, this will add big value to your clients!
One last thing to keep in mind about the Permanent Audit Trail is that while it is definitely a best practice in accounting, it’s also often an accounting requirement, particularly for publicly traded companies or businesses with multiple funding sources.
Both you and your client can come out winners when you implement CFO-level skills. You sharpen your offering to prove that you can run circles around automation services and that you are so much more than a recordkeeper. In fact, making $100,000 per year as a CFO-level bookkeeper is a realistic goal. It could ultimately only be two clients away. When you bill two clients at $4,200 per month, just do the math.
While you’re making nearly $100,000 a year, they win because they’ve saved money and are getting most aspects of those value-add, high-level services through their new trust advisor: you. You keep them feeling good about the direction their business is going in, making them the hero of their own company at the end of the day.
We challenge you to implement these two high-level bookkeeping skills within the next month and see how your current clients respond and your potential client-base expands.
Finally, one last word of advice: Perfection is the enemy! If you don’t implement these skills, find something you can do right now to add more value to your clients. You don’t need to be perfect; you just need to do something your competition is NOT!
Want to learn the ins and outs of implementing these two new CFO-level tools? Make sure you catch the replay of our CFO-level skills webinar and get started on boosting your practice.