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  • Carol Kok

Why great bookkeepers' value isn't in dollars, but sense



Bookkeepers aren’t glorified data entry people – and paying them accordingly risks missing out on insights which can take your business to the next level.

One of the themes running through the industry at the moment is the rise of businesses viewing bookkeeping as an expense rather than something that can return a business significant value. This has led to some businesses trying to outsource bookkeeping services to others, often below market rate, which has twin consequences. As well as short-changing local bookkeepers, it robs the business owner of the insight a professional and experienced bookkeeper can provide.

A lot of business owners still don’t understand what a bookkeeper does, and assumes an accountant can do it or they can just outsource it on the cheap. Bookkeepers are seriously undervalued and seen as data entry admins which business owners think they can get anyone to do it – but that’s just not the case because bookkeepers are so much more than that.

The secret sauce

The reason experienced bookkeepers provide value to a business beyond just ‘doing the books’ is because they’re in the numbers. They can see threats and opportunities before the business owner does. Bookkeepers can see what’s going on within the business. It’s not just what the figures are telling us, but also about human resources and processes. Bookkeepers can look from an outside position and say: ‘I don’t think that’s really working, I think that’s unproductive’. They can assist with those aspects in the business advisory role.

Sam Walton, who founded mega giant Walmart is famous for encouraging those at the coal face to contribute ideas to take the business forward – because they offered a perspective those in the boardroom couldn’t have.

The role of the bookkeeper is shifting towards a business advisory role, harnessing the insights they provide by forensically looking at the numbers to offer a unique perspective. But if business owners treat bookkeeping as glorified data entry, they risk leaving truly unique perspectives on the table.

The business therapist

The expanding role of bookkeepers also meant that they were becoming counsel for business owners. By continuing face-to-face meeting with clients they got to know business owners very well, which helps to build trust. The ability for business owners to simply talk things out with their bookkeeper, knowing that the bookkeeper could see their books remotely, provided immense value to the business owner.

Stymying the next generation

With the rise in business owners outsourcing bookkeeping work for the lowest possible price could keep young bookkeepers out of the game. If bookkeeping is treated as data entry which can be done for the lowest possible price, these young bookkeepers won’t get that experience which enables them to provide so much more value to the business.

There’s always a perception that bookkeepers are too expensive to employ, but it’s not the case. If you have enough work coming in, you should be able to employ a bookkeeper. Putting bookkeeping in the ‘procurement bucket’ not only risks the livelihoods of the next generation of bookkeepers, but robs business owners of insight into their business.


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