Beyond Bookkeeping

Every business needs to do some level of bookkeeping for a couple of reasons:

1) Various government agencies require reporting and payments based on the company’s results.

2) The owner needs a certain amount of information to manage their business and keep it profitable.

While the business owner hires us grudgingly for compliance work because they have to and considers what they pay us as an overhead expense that is a required cost, what if we could turn that perception around?  Here are five areas to consider offering beyond bookkeeping that will help your clients see you as a good investment rather than as an expense.

1. Facilitate Exception Management

An entrepreneur, simply by nature of the role, has too much to do.  Smart entrepreneurs manage by exception, meaning they have systems in place that allow them to be alerted only to things that go wrong, and to not be bothered by things that are fine.

One example of this is with Accounts Receivable.  If a client pays within a reasonable time, the owner does not need to know.  If a client has not paid within a reasonable amount of time, then they may want to be notified.  You can add value by setting up triggers that notify the owner when a late receivable needs their attention.  Better yet, you can help them set up an entire collections procedure that triggers letters, phone calls, and credit reporting at certain points in the receivable’s aging period.

This service requires knowledge of software, reporting, and collections procedures.

2. Enable Process Efficiency

Perhaps you help the client with invoicing as part of your bookkeeping duties.  Rather than performing the process as you learned it from the client, you can make suggestions for improvement.  What if the billing cycle is too long?  What if the client could move the billing process five days earlier to avoid a monthly cash flow shortage?    What if you could suggest software that will cut one day a month off the payables processing?

This new service requires problem-solving and management accounting skills.

3. Implement Fraud Controls

Few small business owners know what to do to reduce fraud, yet many are victims. Clients interested in reducing their risk in this area will benefit from a set of controls you can recommend and put into place for the client.

Helping a client with fraud prevention requires specialized audit skills and knowledge of the area of fraud.

4. Expand Compliance

There are many areas in small business that are pseudo-clerical, meaning those of us who have great organizational skills and are used to dealing with forms and deadlines are really good at this skill.   These areas include:

  • Contracts with vendors and customers, due dates, expiration dates, etc.
  • Corporate recordkeeping, minutes of shareholders, etc.
  • Insurance policies
  • Employee records including emergency contact info, workers comp updates, etc.
  • Codes that need tracking like DUNS numbers, NAICS codes, agency account numbers, and more
  • Trigger event compliance, such as adding a new state to payroll, trademarking a brand, or hiring a new employee that will be driving
  • W-9 compliance
  • Address or phone changes, both business and personal

Most entrepreneurs would be grateful for bookkeepers that can take over certain areas of their business recordkeeping and take charge of it.  I remember during my mastermind year, an owner’s bookkeeper made all of her business and personal address changes while she moved her family cross-country and still managed to grow her business by 1,000% that year.

Skills needed include knowledge of opportunities, rules and regulations in these various compliance areas, and good organizational skills.

5. Analyze Profit Margins

Many small business owners may not know exactly what their margins are in certain areas of their business.  When you can help them allocate labor and costs and match them with revenues then you can help them determine if their prices are too high or too low and adjust accordingly.

Cost accounting is the skill needed for this service.

Adding Value Beyond Bookkeeping

When we can be a small part of helping our clients become more profitable, we move beyond bookkeeping compliance and into accounting service areas that will make a difference for our clients, for the economy, and for our own fulfillment.