How I Spend Less Time on Manual Bookkeeping and More Time on the Work I Love
As an accountant, I’ve learned that people aren’t afraid of numbers—they’re just petrified by everything that comes along with them. When running a business, or doing their own finances, what scares people is how to deal with the mountains of paperwork that inevitably piles up. It’s the paper that’s intimidating, not the numbers on them.
I came to this conclusion quickly through noticing my clients’ pain points. But I also noticed my internal dread. As a business owner myself, even though it was my job to sort and organise paperwork, it still felt overwhelming and, in many instances, a waste of my time.
Solving the Paperwork Nightmare
I started my business five years ago so I could do something I loved—and was good at—while I took care of my two young children. Initially, Healthy Business Finances was a very basic bookkeeping service. But as much as I loved my job, I quickly got to a breaking point with how I spent my time. I remember thinking if I had to reconcile one more bank account, I would lose my mind.
In addition to losing my sanity, I started to lose clients. These were businesses looking for coaching and support services—a robust skill set of mine. But because my time and energy were consumed by data entry work, I couldn’t offer more than basic bookkeeping.
The business got to a point where I wasn’t providing a value of service commensurate with my hourly rate. I knew this had to change if I was to grow my business, attract great clients, and retain my mental health.
When I looked at where processes fell short, I realised that as many as 50% of my clients had no systems in place to deal with their paperwork. Both my clients and I required a way to streamline the piles of paperwork that kept us from getting down to meaningful work. That’s when I found Receipt Bank—the platform for bookkeeping automation.
I initially adopted Receipt Bank for my own sanity. I was tired of dealing with mounds of paper, so I would scan receipts that could then be fed into Xero or MYOB. But I’d even upload other documents like contracts to centrally store the information. This would allow me to have everything in one place, which would be indexable and searchable. Every single document would have an audit trail, so it streamlined our work.
Creating Self-Sufficient Businesses
Once we started to roll out this new system with our clients, everything changed. In the beginning, some clients showed resistance and fear to learn yet another program, but my approach was to start with baby steps.
First, I had my clients simply learn how to upload all of their data into the system by emailing a receipt or taking a photo directly with the Receipt Bank app. Helping my clients establish this habit decreased data entry time and increased their confidence in managing their accounting documents. At this point, I was still doing some of the data entry work, like setting up the rules and text codes in the backend of Receipt Bank.
Eventually, clients were confident enough in their abilities—and the system—that they became curious about what else Receipt Bank could do for them. That’s when my coaching took off. I started to train clients on more complex procedures. I could begin to teach them how to export receipts to a PDF and even how to search for receipts by suppliers to ease situations like applying for grants or being audited. These are times when clients need to come up with a diverse and specific range of information as quickly and efficiently as possible. Something that, without Receipt Bank, is painfully difficult.
When dealing with a new business, I now coach people on how to set up bank accounts, manage their finances, and set up their pricing or fee structure. The ongoing (previously manual) work then happens almost organically. For more established businesses, we can dig deep into their financials. We can easily track their sales reports and alert someone when they've broken sales of $75,000, for example. We can also look for redundancies and inefficiencies with businesses who are already using Receipt Bank quite well but could use some adjustments.
Less Paper, More Coaching
Thanks to Receipt Bank, Healthy Business Finances provides our clients with financial coaching and management accounting—in addition to bookkeeping services. Our newly automated processes allow me to spend my time on the aspect that speaks to me the most: the coaching.
People think I’m crazy because a lot of our training is one-off. We train people on their bank accounts, GST, or hiring their first staff member, and then they can go off and do it for themselves. From a revenue model, this sounds like a horrible idea. It seems like they’d never need us again.
But in fact, probably 50% of the clients we train come back to work with me as a coach, now that they have their accounting—and paperwork management—systems in place. It’s a win when clients return because their business changed and they need more help, or they’ve grown to a point where they just don't want to do it themselves anymore.
Today, I've gotten to the point where roughly 80% of my time is the one-on-one coaching—which is the work I love. And I have a few staff members who do the bookkeeping side of things because that's what they love. Probably half of our business is training and coaching business owners on how to understand their numbers, rather than using us purely as a bookkeeping service.
The result of our hard work is that I now love my work and my business is snowballing. I get so much joy as I see people’s face light up when they learn how to do things for themselves and they’re no longer scared of the numbers—or the paper. Never fear, Receipt Bank and I are here.