It’s (Not) About Time: Creating Real Value for Your Accounting Clients
The accounting industry is changing rapidly—both in terms of the technological advancements and client experience. And that’s a good thing, because the old way was terribly outdated. Previously, you’d see your accountant maybe once per year, hand over old files about what had already happened, and then get back an analysis about the past. None of this was real-time information. Now, we have the technology and the mindset to see our customers’ accounts on a daily basis, which means we actually pick up the phone and talk with them regularly. We're very much on top of our client's sales, expenses, and wages versus their budget. These new advancements are heavily enabled by cloud-based accounting and associated add-ons.
Clearly, this in-depth relationship is great for our clients, but it’s also a wonderful system for accountants. It’s freeing us up to do more important work, and we can now fix most problems immediately, which only helps our clients achieve their goals. These goals aren’t always about making money; sometimes the goal is about lifestyle—like help funding an early retirement or finding a better work/life balance.
We have seen this shift that technology has created first hand. Under the previous archaic systems of accounting, where you would receive a backed-up copy of the client’s desktop accounting software. Then, you'd upload it onto your own server, check to see if there were any changes to the file since you last prepared the accounts, and then manually journal those changes into the practice accounting software! This process is painfully boring and monotonous and added no real value to the client whatsoever.
We needed a way to solve this manual data entry problem, and going digital seemed like the obvious solution.
More About Value Than About Time
In March 2017, we finally decided to take our fate into our own hands. My business partner, Lee Kelly, and I started our firm Pangea Partners because we wanted to get away from the traditional model of accounting firms with practices like chargeable hours, time sheets, and the like. We wanted to move away from the past and draw from our years of experience to move into the future. We needed to spend significantly more time talking with our clients. We dreamed of a system that wasn’t based on time; it was based on value. If our clients achieve their goals, then we achieve our goals.
We provide value to our clients as a 100% cloud-based, digital accounting firm. We only use Xero as our accounting software. We wanted to align ourselves with business owners who already use cloud accounting software or are open to using it. One of our core values is automation. We strive to automate processes as much as we possibly can, which streamlines our business and our clients' businesses. One of the most game-changing tools, which helps us in this quest, is Receipt Bank. The software was introduced to us at our former accounting firm and seemed like a solution perfectly tailored to our clients’ industry-specific accounting needs.
Using Receipt Bank, we simply have our clients take photos of their receipts using the app, or even have suppliers email PDF invoices, which instantly saves our clients and us hours per week. That's hours that can be spent away from administration work and instead focused on business growth and strategy.
A couple of years ago, we had a client who opened a new bar and literally had boxes of invoices that needed to be manually entered. Doing the entry by hand took days of work. But if we would have had Receipt Bank back then, that same job would have taken a few hours instead of a couple of days.
Baby Steps to Success
Receipt Bank is a very easy sell to clients once we show them how the software works. I don't think we have ever had a client say, "We actually don't want to use it. We're happy to do all the data inputting." And once clients are happy with the idea of Receipt Bank, the onboarding process couldn’t be simpler.
Pangea Partners has our own Receipt Bank account, so we show them how the process works with our own profile. We walk them through the process step-by-step. We demo how to take a photo of a receipt using the app, forward a PDF invoice in an email attachment, and then understand how to check if everything’s correct and approve it. The new system is predominantly hands off and stress free.
Since starting Pangea Partners in March 2017, we have had a 62% increase in the number of clients using Receipt Bank. We expect this number to continue to go up as we grow our client base organically and onboard new clients to Receipt Bank.
Once we have those clients onboarded, the ones who are most successful are those who use Receipt Bank most often. If we can get clients uploading receipts every day—instead of once a week or once a month—that’s when we notice the greatest synergy with the accounting software. We certainly encourage our clients to use Receipt Bank regularly.
More Than Just Number Crunchers
We’ve been able to leverage Receipt Bank in ways not a lot of other people have. We now work with a firm called Emapta who help provide resources for our team in Manila. A client will upload or forward emails to Receipt Bank; the team in Manilla then checks the invoices in Receipt Bank as being allocated to the correct account in Xero. Then, they publish these invoices into Xero and check Receipt Bank daily. Finally, Lee and I approve the invoices in Xero.
Our take on this digital system frees us from a lot of the transactional work. We're not necessarily eyeballing every receipt that goes through Receipt Bank, we trust the system once the required checks and balances are in place. We also have our team lead in Manila who manages what her bookkeepers are doing. We're in constant, daily dialogue with her in regards to how the system is operating. We're working on the exact same file because it's cloud based, so what they see is what we see. Outsourcing this part of the process means we’ve gained more freedom to focus on strategy with our clients and with our own business. For our business, it also means that we can very easily scale as we grow.
A Head in the Clouds Can Realize Big Dreams
The best aspect about Receipt Bank is that once you’ve introduced a client to the idea of the software, the actual onboarding process takes two minutes.
On top of the ease of use, the accuracy of our data has increased. Clients are not accountants or bookkeepers—they run their own businesses. So they don't always check the correct account code. Having better information with less work for the client makes our job a lot easier.
The whole system has revolutionized the way we operate. We have clients who now say to us, “Where have you guys been my whole business life?” That feels a bit conceited to write, but this isn’t just about us. Receipt Bank has played an instrumental way in enabling us to change our relationship with our clients. Lee and I have created the business we always hoped we could: one where we’re indispensable to our clients. We’re no longer selling our time; we’re selling our value. I, for one, think it’s about time.