At this point, I believe there is a consensus in the industry on the future of small business accounting (it’s in the cloud, in case you were wondering). 78% of businesses are anticipated to be fully cloud operational by 2020. Already today, 65% of small businesses are utilizing cloud applications for bookkeeping work.* If one of the main drivers of cloud technology is automating the data entry work – what role does the bookkeeper of the future play?
My view is that this is a HUGE opportunity to build upon the role and create so much more value. What was once a dull and routine job is expanding into the exciting and lucrative field of cloud technology. I see this as a natural progression of the bookkeeping profession (and I didn’t just write that because it rhymes). Modern bookkeepers will seize this opportunity and actually help increase cloud adoption rates in the coming years.
So, if you’re a business owner or CPA firm looking to hire a bookkeeper of the future where do you start? Well, as the former COO of Cloudsourced Accounting, an online bookkeeping and cloud integration firm, I quickly learned what clients need from a modern bookkeeper. And, as the head recruiter, I had to figure out how to find those accounting professionals.
Here’s what I look for in a bookkeeper of the future:
1. Formal and informal education
Bookkeepers are no longer data entry clerks. Successful bookkeepers of the future have formal accounting educations from colleges and universities, specialized accounting training from online courses, and certifications from online accounting software training. They have accounting and finance degrees, training from the ICB, IAQCA, and SOB, are QuickBooks ProAdvisors, Xero Advisors, Bill.com Experts, and Bean Counters at Freshbooks.
2. Continuous learning
Modern bookkeepers know that to add value to the businesses they serve they need to stay on top of accounting trends and new developments in accounting technology. They follow industry news and blogs and are genuinely interested in learning, so they can better serve their clients’ businesses. Modern bookkeepers are at the frontlines telling their clients and accounting managers that they should really consider adopting cloud technology.
3. Progressive accounting experience
Maybe their first experience bookkeeping was for a family member’s business or their first job was bookkeeper or accounting clerk at a local CPA firm. However they got their first taste of bookkeeping and accounting – they decided it was for them. Combining that knack for accounting with that desire for continuous learning is what leads them to cloud accounting technology. They have experience in accounting for a few different types of businesses, learned how to work with various client personalities, and enjoy researching accounting and technology solutions for their clients.
4. Entrepreneurial spirit
Modern bookkeepers aren’t doubling as office assistants/managers or waiting around for someone to hand them clients. They are joining networking groups and marketing themselves online. They use LinkedIn and Twitter to engage with potential clients and their peers. They understand that modern accounting practices are run differently, and they’re excited to show the world what they can do.
5. Specialized expertise
At the same time, they realize that it’s impossible to be the best bookkeeper for every business. Instead, they are figuring out (or have figured out) the best fit companies and industries and are learning best practices for those businesses. They are testing out accounting applications, add-on’s, and systems. They are learning the industry’s KPI’s and creating actionable reports that business managers need to make decisions. Modern bookkeepers are specializing in order to provide the best service to their clients.
This (almost) goes without saying, but just as they are using the best cloud accounting applications on behalf of their clients, they are also using the best technology to serve their clients. They use Skype and Google Hangouts for virtual meetings and download collaboration tools and accounting apps on their smartphones and tablets, so they can work with clients from anywhere.
So, the bookkeeper of the future is far from the traditional data entry role it was in the past. In fact, I hesitate to use the term “bookkeeper” or “bookkeeping” at all. Not only do we not keep our accounting in actual books anymore, but the term itself does not reflect the value modern bookkeepers bring to their clients and employers.
This emerging accounting professional role crosses the lines between accounting and information technology and is a huge growth opportunity. The bookkeepers of the future, as I have previously described, will be business advisors who select and manage information systems, design and produce timely and accurate reports, and give actionable feedback to the business’ decision makers. Lucky for us and them, the future is now.
Next week I’ll be writing about how the expanding role of bookkeepers benefits CPAs and CFOs. Thanks for reading!
Ps. Just for fun: Two red flags of the old school bookkeeper: Uses an aol email address and tells me how fast he/she is with a 10-key! Don’t worry if this is you – adapt and prosper!
Pps. Let me know if you can think of a better term/title for the “bookkeeper” of the future in the comments!