It can be a rude shock to an accounting or bookkeeping professional to be confronted with a client who leaves or who wants to go DIY. It may be about cost or it may be about taking the role in-house. Receiving such news is never nice but it is a reminder that the measure of our worth to a customer or prospect is as much about your own sense of self-worth as it is about value you bring to a customer.

As far as customers are concerned it is as certain as Newton’s Law that the more value-add services you or your firm delivers, the more likely it is that you will not be the recipient of bad news from a client.

Money is emotional

Most bookkeepers perform client services and then expect to be paid afterward. Even that mindset says something about self-worth. Think of it this way: you might be paid immediately or it may be up to 30 or even 45 days later. These payment expectations are usually set when the client first hires you, but is it not the case that every accounting software supplier offers subscription services which are paid monthly in advance?

So the first step to resolving issues of losing clients or rebuttals on fees, is to try to take the emotions out of the equation. The next is tougher: it’s looking at your income when measured against a ‘living income’ which takes into account:

  • Voluntary superannuation contributions
  • Self-insurance or Professional Indemnity insurance
  • Holiday pay allowance equivalent to 4 weeks paid leave
  • Cost of scope creep, that us, non-billable hours devoted to client work
  • Continuing education cost in soft skills, that is, skills required to be successful in pitching and communications.

Think about where your opportunities lie for increasing your value to your customers. Late payers are the noose around the proverbial necks of Australian small business owners, costing significant time and money. As the chairman of the Council of Small Business Australia Paul Nielsen rightly points out, some big companies are treating small business and suppliers as a bank, which is wrong. Outstanding invoices cost business money in forgone bank interest, overdraft rates, lost business opportunities, no access to early payment discounts and time spent manually chasing debtors. As Damian Arena CEO of online debt management group IODM says “SME customers who automate their debtor management process have extra money in their bank account each month, rather than on their balance sheet.

Low hanging fruit

The measure of your worth in the future will be determined by a future which is driven by massive aggregation of accounting and bookkeeping and the domination of accounting software providers in the ‘white space’ of SMBs, that is, those owners who choose a DIY approach to ensure they have key performance indicators at their fingertips. “Friendly reminders are not enough – automate.” Simple online systems will automate the invoice chasing process, so set up automatic reminders. Now there’s an idea!