The Power of Three: How the Right Tools Helped Me Go Beyond Bookkeeping
Automation has disrupted the accounting industry. The dusty, old days of hardcopy data entry have quickly become a faint memory. But, unfortunately, some bookkeepers and accountants have some serious catching up to do. It’s like they didn’t get the memo.
For my firm, the digital evolution in bookkeeping and accounting saves me a huge amount of time by allowing me to automate the once tedious and time-consuming process of data entry. This grants me additional mental bandwidth to focus on the smaller actions and behaviors that truly help my own business to grow.
I’ve personally found that automation can probably replace up to 70% of my work. But it’s the 30%—where automation can’t replace me—that brings our customers value. It’s the near-perfect example of the Pareto principle, where roughly 80% of the results are derived from about 20% of the inputs.
That 30% of my time is spent on actions and behaviors that a low-level bookkeeper simply can't do. My premium bookkeeping and accounting firm, All That Counts, aims to remove much of the work from the business owner. We start a conversation. We build relationships. And we simplify their lives. That’s where the accounting magic comes from.
We don't sit there and do data entry; our role is to automate every single thing we can. All That Counts works on projects that help take our clients from desktop environments to the cloud. But we don’t focus solely on the accounting system—we look for any opportunity to automate what they're doing. Because the time spent now, investing in automation systems, is time and efficiencies they earn back down the road.
All That Counts… Is Solid Accounting Advice and Services
Historically, bookkeepers were people who went into a business’ office, sat head down doing the books all day, and walked out—never to be seen again. Well, until the next visit, that is. But then, when the client needed to get in contact of their bookkeeper, they were busy with another client. Bookkeepers were perceived to be valued mostly for their data entry capacity back then because business owners saw the physical work that was involved. It was a tedious, all-manual, shoe-box style of work.
Before automation, my life was much the same. Even when I worked in the corporate world, most of the day to day tasks were laborious. I started out as an MYOB-certified consultant, a traditional bookkeeper that had to be on-site and who struggled with file backups, file duplication, and manual data entry. This made the job highly unpleasant. Luckily, bookkeeping has evolved since then.
Our main value is customer service. This means we not only give our clients our time and attention, but we also seek out new technologies and tools that will help us serve them better. More recently, forward-thinking bookkeepers have been forced to move into some form of an advisory role because we have to show value in an evolved capacity. Advisory comes in different shapes and sizes.
The Power of Three
At All That Counts, we’re a huge proponent of cloud accounting software, such as QuickBooks Online. I’ve been interested in cloud accounting for years. But, at first, there was one missing element that I didn’t even realize I needed until I found it. That piece of the puzzle was Receipt Bank: a cloud accounting software that automates the collection and data extraction of receipts and invoices.
I’d seen Receipt Bank at various trade shows and soon realized this wasn’t a fly-by-night product. They were here to stay. I then learned more about their platform and quickly saw it would allow me to focus my efforts on the more impactful parts of my client relationships.
Since adopting Receipt Bank almost three years ago, the number of my clients now using it has grown from 5 to more than 30. We’ve seen how much it’s changed their lives, so we now make it mandatory for new clients.
Now, we use Receipt Bank and QuickBooks as our main accounting and bookkeeping tools. On their own, these products are strong tools, but when combined with the expertise and advice from us at All That Counts, it’s a game-changer for clients. We do our clients’ integration and show them how to use the tools. We change how they view receipts, but we also automate their processes, data, and the flow of data in the accounting system. Receipt Bank, QuickBooks, and All That Counts form what I like to call the “Power of Three.” Together, we’re more than the sum of our parts.
We maximize our impact when we combine those tools and our expertise. Automation takes care of 70% of the grunt work, while the other 30% is where we dig deep into their business, their numbers, and advise business owners accordingly. If we quantify the amount of time and energy Receipt Bank has saved our own firm, it would be about the equivalent of hiring an additional staff member. As great as QuickBooks is as a standalone product, the next level of monumental change for our clients is how they manage their expenses. At the end of the day, many accounting systems are similar. But it’s expense management that brings the most monumental changes.
The 30%: The Analysis Behind the Business Magic
Receipt Bank is critical to a client’s financials because it reveals how they manage their expenses. Once an expense is submitted, we can view it and raise questions. Take a new vehicle purchase, for example. If it’s financed versus a cash purchase, we need to log assets and loans differently so all relevant business expenses and actions are properly tracked. That way, we can handle each need accordingly if any issues arise. Receipt Bank allows us to be proactive instead of waiting for a shoe-box of faded receipts to come in. We can help identify patterns and trends, then advise on next steps in almost real-time.
We now spend our time working on business owners’ psychology, trying to get them to change their habits for the better. To be clear: They still have control. The client still has the final say. That's why we don't auto-publish Receipt Bank logs. We give clients the option to go in and sight everything they can see. We empower them to make smart decisions, and we support them with our insights. However, it’s not always easy to make business owners see the gaps they need to bridge. Many feel comfortable with their old processes, and therein lies the problem.
Never Let a Resource Go to Waste
Old processes are safe and familiar. But familiarity makes you stagnate. We try to help change that mindset and show our clients what they could experience if they chose to explore their automation options. We’ve demonstrated for our clients time and again that it could literally change their lives. We ask them, “What else could you do with your spare time? What else could you do if your business was running a little bit more efficiently? What if your existing team members were focused on bringing in more sales rather than processing paperwork?"
I've got a particular client in the wastage management industry and, with that, comes a lot of paperwork. It's all regulation-based. They have two full-time people trying to manage their system, and who then have to migrate that information into Xero so I can make sense of their accounts.
They were drowning in paperwork. But with automation, I was able to alleviate two of their issues. First, I eliminated the creditors pile of paperwork by introducing them to Receipt Bank. A few tears of joy were shed for that. The general manager said to me, "You know, you just saved me. I was about to hire another full-time person to help us with accounts payable processing." That’s massive!
Secondly, it previously took the general manager almost a day to do commission reports. I created certain reports within Xero, added formulas to them and extracted the data he needed. Now, he can run his commission reports from his favorite menu. When I showed him, he hugged me and said, “Oh my God! You've just saved me a day’s work!"
It scares me to think about how many other businesses this size are doing things the difficult way because they aren’t aware of the tools that are now available. Many people aren’t exposed to the digital accounting and bookkeeping ecosystem. It’s frustrating to see that certain businesses earn $10 million or more in annual revenue and yet are still in unfavorable positions.
They tend to employ a full-time accountant who is too old-school in their approach, so they miss out on many accounting advancements. The old way still technically works, but it’s exponentially more frustrating—and slow!—than automating and simplifying the process. Why do we care so much? Because we’ve been there ourselves.
Unexpected Success: Catching a (Coffee) Break
Our new processes have helped our clients find new efficiencies—and us as well. In the past, we struggled to compete in the café industry. It’s a unique space with niche needs. Within a month, restaurants and cafés can accumulate mountains of paperwork, and we felt that we priced ourselves out the market because of all the labor involved. Using the old style of bookkeeping took us hours to complete our duties, and the pricing simply wasn’t competitive because we used to charge an hourly rate.
Since we’ve started using Receipt Bank, it takes us no time all. We train our clients to simply take a photo of the receipt or statement on their phone and then easily submit it to the cloud. This has been especially helpful when it comes to all of their food invoices. Receipt Bank has been invaluable for helping us crack into this new industry.
Our Goods and Services Tax (GST) is recorded more accurately in Receipt Bank as well. Once you understand how to use Receipt Bank (and it doesn’t take long), it all works together seamlessly. That's been a game changer, allowing us to go from being uncompetitive in the café space to making noticeable progress.
Automate My World
No one can do it all themselves. We all need help to get to the next level in business. You've got to be sharp. Competition is everywhere, and you just have to be smarter in how you do things, especially when it comes to improving your bottom line. Everything we do in our business is about increasing the bottom line because, let's face it, it's getting a lot harder for all small business and we aim to do anything we can to keep small businesses in business.
When you are good at what you do, you’re busy. But by automating 70% of the time and innovating 30% of the time, that initial return on investment in automation systems begins to pay off. At All That Counts, we want to make a difference in your world, not just in your business. And thanks to these new, digital accounting and bookkeeping tools, we can simplify your life if you choose to be open to change.