Succeeding in your field goes beyond being technical competent and a good practitioner. You also need business skills. It’s managing people, developing your reputation, deepening client relationships and being a driver of change in your business or professional firm. The big challenge facing the professional is: how to move to the next level in a field where there is disruptive change.
Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher noted that to be “Like a man with a fork in a world of soup” was no place to be. He could well be describing a future bookkeeper without the skills needed to be successful in 2016 and beyond.

Business skills

Gone are the days of store front signs. Your future client will no longer walk through your front door; they will be searching for you online. Gone too, are the days when you could underwrite your firm’s business with data entry and compliance returns. New generation business owners are too savvy to see value in rudimentary work which a non-professional, equipped with accounting software knowledge, can complete in a few key strokes.

Prospective clients want to work with a firm that thinks the way they do: using technology to connect and leveraging existing systems to add value to their business. With companies like Xero, MYOB, Reckon, and their add-on partners such as Creditor Watch (credit ratings agency) and TSheets (which commoditises time keeping/tracking) the role of the bookkeeper is being squeezed in every direction.

Climbing the pyramid

Calling oneself a professional or an advisor is no longer a ticket to higher revenue. Think of a business owner in the music industry who ignored tech-driven disruption and become redundant to the new waves of artists when, first Napster and then iTunes, carved up the music industry.

Consider the pyramid below as a guide for 2016

Graphic Success pyramid3

Despite the myth that it is only university-educated accounting professionals who can call themselves ‘advisors’, the fact is that any business-minded bookkeeper can be a ‘trusted advisor’. With a fundamental grasp of accounting fundamentals (which is, after all the ‘language’ of business) and an application to contemporary tech-driven systems, a professional can, with some professional development and experience, aspire to move through the three levels of the bookkeeping business pyramid.
Success in 2016

In the pyramid, the role of the professional or firm at any level is self-explanatory and can apply to any industry – for example hospitality or construction – located anywhere.

From there it’s a case of figuring out what matters to the business owner and configuring the logistics and understanding the nomenclature for a particular industry and offering service packages not locked into hourly rates.

In 2016 the term ‘trusted advisor’ will gain currency. Practitioners are going to need to know how to explain the numbers to their clients. What do they mean? What can they tell us about how the business is performing?

Presenting tools that improve cash flow, increase productivity is now within a bookkeeper’s grasp given the vast array of add-ons now being on offer.