How to attract, qualify, onboard, and succeed with new clients

Originally posted in Sage Advice

It has always amazed me how different every bookkeeper or accountant I know operates. The very general flow for bookkeeping or accounting work is data input, data processing, data output. However, there are so many differences in each of those key stages that I have yet to meet an accounting professional whose workflow matches another.

I believe that by streamlining workflow, you will ultimately be more productive and more profitable.

When I started my own bookkeeping firm in 2011, I tried to seek the advice of other self-employed local bookkeepers who could help me understand what a client engagement looked like. Some other questions I asked as I started my practice included:

Since I was regarded as “the competition” by local bookkeepers, my questions basically went unanswered and any advice I did get didn’t seem terribly helpful. I now know I should have dug deeper to ensure these questions were answered to my satisfaction before going into business. Instead, I adopted my client’s workflows, which seemed like a good place to start. Don’t worry, I know better now.

By not taking the time to identify and craft my own workflow, I was an unwitting heir to my client’s workflow, or worse yet, their prior bookkeeper. And I’m guessing their prior bookkeeper wasn’t their bookkeeper anymore for good reason. It simply didn’t make sense that if I wanted to start well and have a successful engagement with a new client, that I’d be repeating either the client’s bad bookkeeping habits, or the bookkeeper that preceded me.

Streamline the way you obtain records from your clients

Starting at the beginning with data input, define how you will obtain data and documents from your clients. There are already so many options even in this first phase of work, before beginning with the work:

  • Should clients drop off a box of receipts or should I go to their office to pick it up?
  • Should they change their mailing address to my office for bills and tax documents?
  • Should they use an app I selected to upload documents, or did we use tools that fetched this data on their behalf?

I have found that anytime you can take the client out of this part of the equation, the better for everybody. Clients hate being nagged just as much as we hate nagging them.

Provide trusted advice

Next is the processing of the data and where our professional expertise can shine through. Remember, the bookkeeper or accountant should be the one who keeps up with compliance and tax issues, who determines how transactions should be allocated, and who ensures the workflow is smooth and the financial reporting consistent. It is easy at this stage to fall into the habits of the client or previous bookkeeper by continuing to allocate transactions where they had. The worst reason to do anything a certain way is because that’s the way it’s always been done. I’d much rather do my research for the correct and compliant way, pointing out the risk to myself and the client if not followed, rather than to continue blindly.

Report according to (or exceed!) expectations

Finally, the data output. What have you committed to providing your client? Is it a financial statement package? If so, what financial statements are included and how often is it delivered?  Is it a video explaining to them their financial health and how it compares to the previous period? Again, the options are endless for the tools and methods you choose to work. Be sure to set expectations up front with your clients.

It took me months, if not years, to take better control of my client engagements. By selecting a common data input method, data processing or workflow, and data output, I achieved a streamlined and easily replicated system. This repeatable system for my clients reduced time and energy creating new processes for each client; and therefore, increased profit.

If you haven’t fine-tuned these three vital elements of the bookkeeping or accounting process, it’s not too late. You probably already have tools and workflows you prefer and now it’s about applying the learnings and repeating the system across more of your clients. It may take some time, but between the more predictable workflow and the increased productivity and profitability, I promise it will be worth it.

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Bloom Where You’re Planted

sage torontoThis past week marked my six-month anniversary at Sage.  Around the time I started, I wrote a blog announcing my job change and reviewing things I had learned in the previous year.  (You can read that here if you’d like.) I’m afraid if I wait another six months then I’ll forget half of what I’ve learned.

Six months ago, I was ecstatic to be joining an amazing and passionate company, working with amazing and passionate people, who welcomed me with open arms. I saw in the colleagues that I’d be working with a desire to do their best and an excitement for the direction in which the company was going. It was the first time I would be in a role where I wasn’t responsible for anybody’s bank reconciliations, payroll or tax remittances to be done on time, and the second role where I didn’t have to pay my team’s payroll out of my own bank account, or worry about clients not paying on time, or if I had charged them too much or not enough for my work. However, I would never have been able to take on this job if all those things hadn’t happened, if I hadn’t lived through what it was like to start and grow a bookkeeping firm of my own, to work in an accounting role in industry, or in a large firm. Each of those three roles prepared me for this new chapter, the greatest challenge so far.

I’ve had a lot of questions asked of me over these last six months, especially around my transition time back in the summer.  There was a buzz of curiosity from friends, peers, and app partners. There was concern about me losing credibility as I was taking a role at a company where I didn’t know the products as well as other software I knew intimately, potentially losing friends of that brand in the process, and about me being at too large a company where I’d be swallowed up and not allowed to shine.

Some of the conversations I had with people at the time, and continue to have, revealed that some of those concerns were also fears of mine.  Yes, I loved the role, the people, and the company. Yes, I knew that taking the job was the right decision for me and my family. But the big, fat decisions, the life-changing ones, they should be tough. And with this one, those fears were what almost held me back from what I knew was the perfect job for me.

Those fears were unwarranted. Credibility is about being trusted and believed in. Making the choice I did didn’t make me any less trustworthy, and may even have had the opposite effect.  I can intelligently discuss comparisons in the products, workflows and methods of marketing because I know them first-hand, not because I read a competitive analysis report somewhere.

As for losing friends, I realized that some people who I called friends had only seen me as a channel for their personal or professional purposes.  It is a tough lesson, but so valuable. My social network of friends and colleagues has continued to grow, and I now see a whole other side to the industry that I didn’t before. The truth is, to most people, it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter what logo is on my business card. My mission has always been, and continues to be, that I want to be the resource to others that I wished I had as I fought the battles as a bookkeeper and entrepreneur. I don’t want any bookkeeper or accountant to feel like they are struggling alone in their business and with their clients. I want to partner with them and enable them with the tools they need to be successful, maybe even influencing the tool-builders along the way.

I’ve been a singer my whole life, and my first solo was at the age of about 4 in the Children’s Choir at our church. The song was “Bloom Where You’re Planted”. Gigantic, bright pink flower petals surrounded my face as I sang.  I don’t remember much of it anymore, except for that line and a little of the melody.  The message is to thrive, grow, or shine, wherever you are. I never could have guessed I’d be where I am today, in a national role for a massive global software company, but I do know that I wouldn’t be here without all the experiences, challenges, relationships, ups and downs, along the way. I don’t have this all figured out yet and I still have so much to learn, but six months in and I’m still ecstatic about my job, the colleagues I have the pleasure of working with and learning from, the company I believe in, and the accountants and bookkeepers I get to talk to day in and day out.

If you feel that you aren’t quite where you need to be, or that you never thought you’d be where you are right now, I encourage you to continue growing and thriving, blooming where you’re planted.  Realize that this experience is preparing you for something amazing to come that you would not be able to achieve unless you were where you are right now. And if you need to wear gigantic, bright pink flower petals around your head as a reminder, so be it.

#neverstoplearning

#neverstoplearning

A person can learn a lot in a year.

I’ve learned I can plant a garden where things actually grow! Those closest to me know how truly amazing this is.

I’ve learned how much fun it is to find new ways and platforms to connect with my community.  This year was the addition of a podcast which has taught me idea-forming and speaking skills, even though my co-host is a total goofball.

I’ve learned I may be addicted to Nutella croissants. I can’t describe the devastation when I found out this was only a seasonal treat and not a permanent menu addition.

And most importantly, I’ve learned where my passion and energy lies.

I’m at my best as an ambassador for Bookkeepers and Accountants who are successfully building their businesses in the cloud. I get so energized when I can help them in any way, no matter how small, because I know what it’s like to be them; hustling to build a thriving business, creating awesome experiences for their clients, and trying to find some kind of balance to stay sane. (I’m still working on that last part.) Their excitement becomes my excitement, even if, or maybe especially if, they can learn from my mistakes to succeed.

This is what I’m truly passionate about.

Through an odd little turn of events, I have been offered the opportunity to spend my work life doing exactly that. In one way, it is a huge change with a steep learning curve of new software products.  However, in another way, it is the freedom to do exactly what I believe I am supposed to be doing – advocating for Bookkeepers and Accountants across Canada while partnering with other resources globally.

I am proud to announce that I have accepted the position of Accountants Group Leader – Canada for Sage. This role will have me connecting personally with Bookkeepers and Accountants in firms and businesses from coast to coast. I’ll also be speaking at events, hosting roundtables, working with Sage partners and more — all so I can help Sage build the features and products that Bookkeepers and Accountants need to serve their clients better than ever.

There will be a lot more learning to come and I welcome every bit of it. I’m excited about this next chapter and I look forward to meeting many of you across Canada soon.

Rachel

“The most effective teachers are the ones who never stop learning.”

#neverstoplearning

Using Hubdoc to Upload Bank CSV Files to QBO

As many of you know, Hubdoc is one of my must-have apps for any client using any accounting software. The powerful fetch function allows me to work more independently instead of nagging my clients and waiting for copies of bank statements, online-accessible invoices as well as transactions imported through a number of methods including mobile app and email-in.

But that’s not where the fun stops. Not only does Hubdoc fetch statements, but also copies of e-transfers, cheque copies and CSV files.  These CSV files come in handy when you are not able to connect a bank feed to QBO. But there are a few tricks to making these work efficiently. (For the following examples, keep in mind that I don’t know if some of these situations are specific to this bank, QBO or PC vs Mac.)

You can find the CSV files on the left side of the Hubdoc login beneath the accounts they are associated with. In this case, one CSV file belongs to a chequing account, the other belongs to a credit card account. To access the CSV files, simply click on the CSV folder you would like to access.

Hubdoc CSVFrom the CSV folder, select the file you wish to download and select the Download button from the top right of the screen. Notice how the date format appears YYYY-MM-DD.Hubdoc CSV file downloadYou will need to open the CSV file to adjust the date format before uploading into QBO’s bank feed. To do that, I use the drop down arrow to the right of the download file and select Open. The CSV file will open in Excel.Hubdoc CSV file download openFrom the Office button, select Save As then scroll down to Other Formats. I like to change the name of file so it is easy to find later, but remember that it must always stay a CSV file format in order for the upload to work in QBO. Also notice that the date format has changed now that it is viewable in Excel and pay attention to the columns here and what data is in each column. Here we have date, description, credits (for credit card payments) and debits (credit card charges).Hubdoc CSV file download saveYou are now able to upload the file into QBO. From the navigation pane, select Transactions then Banking. Select the account you wish to upload the file for. You can see the account selected here is CIBC MasterCard. On the right side, use the drop down arrow beside Update and select File upload.CSV file uploadSelect the file to upload and select Open. Once the file has been confirmed as selected, click Next at the bottom right.Browse to uploadNow map the file you just uploaded, to the account you want to compare it to in the Chart of Accounts. Then select Next at the bottom right.Map file to accountBy using the drop down arrows, select the options to map the information correctly from CSV to QBO. However, the trouble comes when you go to select the date format. There are only three date formats given as options.  None are based on the company file’s date format, and all three are a variation of “day, month, year” which the CSV file does not come in natively.  To correct this, simply go back to the Excel file and change the date format to match the one you want to select in the file upload screen. I find it most effective to go straight to Custom date format as there aren’t any that match the default options in QBO. Then click OK.change date formatWhen you re-save the file, ensure you keep the CSV file format. Now that you know you need to change the date format, you can do it when you save the file the first time and before you upload it to begin with.  You are now ready to upload the file (or re-upload it, if you forgot to change the date format first), and map it to the bank feed.map file to bank feedSelect Next in the bottom right corner. You will then be prompted to select which transactions that have been downloaded, you want to import.  In most cases, it will be all of them. But this is a good spot to remove transactions for date ranges already reconciled. If you miss those at this step, don’t worry, you can always exclude the transactions within the bank feed later. Follow the prompts to complete the upload process. select transactions to importOnce uploaded, the transactions will appear in the bank feed centre, and you will be able to add, match or even create and apply bank rules on them just as you do with transactions brought through a connected bank feed.  It is a great alternative for Hubdoc clients who don’t want or can’t have direct access to their online banking through bank feeds.bank upload complete

Do you have any other ways you import bank data? Do you have other QBO questions? Join the discussion on Facebook in our QB-HQ Facebook Group – Your QuickBooks Headquarters for Tips, Tricks and Training.

FischBooks answers: “HELP! I Messed up my Setup in QBO! Now What?!”

QuickBooks Online makes setting up a new company file incredibly easy.  You are walked through a step by step process and the file is built based on your answers.  But what if you answered something incorrectly or maybe the needs of your company have changed. There isn’t a menu option to get back to the setup and you can’t seem to find the settings you need to make those changes either. But you CAN access the setup again and make the necessary changes.  Here’s how:

Login to the company file requiring the change.

QBO Login

Make sure you are on the Home Page (Note: This also works for “Your Books”, the FREE QBO Plus Subscription that ProAdvisors get).

Home Page

At the top of the page you will see the address bar ends with /app/homepage.

Homepage

Block “homepage” with your mouse and replace with “setup” by typing it right on top.

Setup

When you hit Enter, the Setup window appears.  Complete the three steps, making the appropriate changes as you go, then selecting Next for each screen. Click Done after the final step and voila! That setup you messed up that you thought you’d have to live with forever and ever is now fixed!

Setup Interview

When have you needed to use this handy tip? Do you have other QBO questions? Join the discussion on Facebook in our QB-HQ Facebook Group – Your QuickBooks Headquarters for Tips, Tricks and Training.

FischBooks answers: “HELP! I Converted from QuickBooks Desktop to Online and my Financials don’t Balance!”

The most important step immediately following the conversion process when going from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online, is checking that the Financial Statements for both company files balance to each other. In most conversions I’ve done, there is usually no issue with the Profit & Loss Statement. QuickBooks Online does a great job at maintaining account hierarchies as well (not pictured here – you’ll have to trust me on this one).

Compare financials

However, there is a consistent discrepancy with Balance Sheets when it comes to Accounts Receivable or Accounts Payable and tax liability accounts.

Balance Sheet

In most cases, it is because of how QuickBooks Desktop manages tax differently from QuickBooks Online. QB Desktop turns tax into a Customer Receivable or Vendor Payable, which is actually incorrect according to accounting standards. These amounts should stay on the Balance Sheet as a liability. This is why you will always see two tax accounts for each tax type in QB Online. One is the Payable (current activity for that tax liability) and the other is a Suspense (prior period activity where the return has already been done, but the payment has not yet been made or the refund has not yet been received).

The trouble comes when you try to convert a file that has a Customer AR or Vendor AP balance having to do with a tax return. Notice how the AR includes the refund on the Desktop side, but the Online side does not:

Rec Gen AR

And here is an example of what that looks like when there is a payable owing:

Rec Gen AP

During the conversion, the amount has moved from the AR or AP to the newly-created Suspense account on the Balance Sheet.

Rec Gen Suspense

You now have two options: 1.) Move the balance back to AR or AP since that tax return has already been filed anyway, or 2.) Leave it where it is and just make sure when the tax payment is made or tax refund is received, that you offset the Suspense account.

Which is your preferred method? Do you have other Conversion questions? Join the discussion on Facebook in our QB-HQ Facebook Group – Your QuickBooks Head Quarters for Tips, Tricks and Training.

FischBooks’ Must-Have QuickBooks Labs

I love QuickBooks Labs. They are great insights into what the Intuit development teams are working on that will make our QBO lives a little sweeter. Whether converting from QuickBooks Desktop or starting a QBO company file from scratch, there are four QuickBooks Labs that are now my default settings.

To access these Labs, click on the Company Gear Icon at the top right of the screen.  Then select QuickBooks Labs at the bottom of the first column entitled Settings.QuickBooks LabsFeel free to take a peek at the ones I am not mentioning, but my four must-haves are as follows:

  1. Directory View for Vendors – The Customer Centre has had the Directory View for a while now and my clients and I like consistency. By selecting this option, the Supplier/Vendor Centre operates like the Customer Centre. The Supplier list that appears on the left within a Supplier Detail screen makes it really easy to switch between Suppliers.Directory View
  2. Redesigned Reports – Reports just keep getting better and the Redesigned Reports are no exception. Create even more professional-looking reports that are sure to impress and customize even easier using simpler navigations.Redesigned Reports
  3. Autocomplete Widget – This great shortcut tool makes it incredibly fast and easy to add Customer and Supplier contacts into QBO. Using public directories, start typing the name of a contact and QBO will do the rest.Autocomplete Widget
  4. Collapsible Left Navigation – Maximize your work area by collapsing the left navigation bar.Collapsible Left Nav

All QuickBooks Labs features have mini videos demonstrating the tools, as well as Learn more (takes you to lots more online information), See demo (plays the mini video), and Give feedback (let Intuit know what you think of these innovative Labs).

Previous Labs submissions have turned in to permanent features of QBO. Here’s hoping these four will be added to our normal workflow soon.

Which Labs do you love? Which can you do without? Join the discussion on Facebook in our QB-HQ Facebook Group – Your QuickBooks Head Quarters for Tips, Tricks and Training.