One the most frustrating aspects of the accounting function is accessing the source documents. Unfortunately this most frustrating step is one of the most critical. Typically firms will accept source documents multiple ways. Some clients will drop off the monthly shoebox;
others will scan some, email some, and drop the rest by at the end of the month; others will wait until you visit their workplace to process the source documents; and others just won’t do anything no matter how hard you press or how easy you make it for them. Hopefully you’re nodding your head and can think of clients that fit into each of these categories.
Ultimately this is incredibly inefficient, which impacts your profitability. It also makes work planning very difficult and puts enormous pressure on your people at the end of the period to process a ton of data in a timely manner. The good news is there’s a better way! More and more technology is coming into the accounting world to help take care of organizing the source documents.
- If accessing your client’s bank statements in a timely manner is a problem, check out www.FileThis.com. Filethis will actually go out to your client’s bank and download the statements automatically. You’ll get an email to say new statements are now available. Imagine how much easier it will be to plan a client’s data processing knowing when their statements are made available.
- How do your clients currently manage their invoices and receipts? If it’s not in an electronic, ordered fashion, check out www.receipt-bank.com. Receipt Bank will allow your clients to email, scan and take photos of all their receipts and invoices to be processed. Imagine having access to this in real-time where ever your clients do business. In addition to managing the source documents, it will also extract key data. If your client is using a web based platform such as QBO or Xero then Receipt Bank will send the extracted data – supplier, invoice number, due date, amounts etc, and a downloadable image of the document, directly into the accounting software.
- If you pay your client’s bills, then www.bill.com is a must have. Bill.com will process the invoices, create a payables register and pay your clients bills on approval. Then it’ll download into your accounting software. Plus you’ll have an easily searchable, electronic record in case of an audit or you need to ‘dig up’ an invoice.
- Does your client have to process expense reports? If they’re using an archaic system of spreadsheets and envelopes to collect receipts, then www.tallie.com or www.expensify.com is for them. Tallie will allow your clients people to generate expense reports on the fly. Just take photos or email the receipts into the system and hey presto, the expense report is created. It is that simple.
Outsourced client accounting services can be incredibly profitable when done correctly. The biggest challenge to profitability in my experience has been getting access to the source documents. There are many platforms out there, and quite often some overlap between platforms. Take some time to talk to peers, attend a product demonstration, and identify a few new platforms you will adopt to take care of manual processes.
In fact why not try them on your firm. Use Bill.com to pay your own bills or maybe try Receipt Bank to get your own source documents in order. You’ll be better positioned to explain the benefits to your clients when you are a user yourself.
Damien Greathead is Vice President, Business Development, North America for Receipt Bank. (When he submitted this article he was with 2020 Group). He has spent most of the past 10 years training accounting professionals in marketing and operations. He specializes in Marketing plan development and implementation, including social media integration, Technology advising, operational reviews and performance coaching. As the Director of Operations for 2020 Group he oversaw the growth of the membership group in the US; develops tools and resources for 2020 members to implement in their accounting practices; consults with firms regarding better practice management and growth techniques and looks for value-add relationships with vendors to the accounting profession that will be of benefit to the membership group.