There are two types of clients Cheryl Carlson works with in her busy boutique bookkeeping practice in Calgary: those who are looking for simple bookkeeping help (straight data entry / journal entry) and those who “want the full range,” she says.
The full range means they are looking for someone to help them peel back the layers of their business data, acting as a type of controller to make sure their company is on the right track and to identify any red flags. After all, isn’t the best accounting, about providing essential information to business owners so they can make good financial decisions?
A tool like chata.ai would have helped in a case like this where I could have just asked a simple question like: ‘what is the average time to pay invoices?’ and seen immediately that there was a problem.
“The first question I always ask a new client is ‘how involved do you want me to be’,” says Cheryl. “Generally, if I can act more as a controller for their business, then I can really add value in the services I provide – like being on top of expenses and relieving the pressure on the owner to keep track of everything. The number one question I get from clients is ‘why are my expenses so high?’”
Cheryl has a few clients in the hospitality sector and, to illustrate her point, she gives the example of hotel owners that were looking to understand their housekeeping costs and its impact on profitability.
“They were striving to keep housekeeping costs in line with a percentage of revenue. They really needed good, timely access to all their housekeeping costs (labour, supplies, etc.) to keep on top of it. That’s where I can add my value as their bookkeeper. If there are tools or apps out there to help me keep on top of things like that, well it’s a win-win for me and my client.”
Making technology work for you in your business is key to staying current and relevant, Cheryl believes. “The more time I have to dig looking for answers, the more it costs my clients. Why spend four hours creating a complex spreadsheet if I could just ask a question using an app and get an immediate answer?”
“At the end of the day, I love seeing my client’s businesses grow and evolve. See their revenue grow, understand their expenses.
Cheryl works in a variety of software environments – QuickBooks 0nline, Sage, Xero – whatever her clients use. She often acts as a navigator for her clients through their financial data – either because they don’t use the software themselves, don’t have time, or don’t have the inclination.
“You don’t know what you don’t know until you mine the data, especially larger businesses where are there so many moving parts, so many hands in the pockets, and A not talking to B sometimes.”
Cheryl points to a recent example of a client who was struggling to understand why there was such a discrepancy between the time an invoice was issued and the paid date entered. “After much digging, it turns out that the invoices were being paid before they were issued, creating a real accounting mess.”
“A tool like chata.ai would have helped in a case like this where I could have just asked a simple question like: ‘what is the average time to pay invoices?’ and seen immediately that there was a problem with the paid dates entered. Some accounting software don’t have notifications to stop someone from entering a paid date before the invoice was created.”
Cheryl believes an adeptness with technology and being able to keep an open mind about it is just good business.
“At the end of the day, I love seeing my client’s businesses grow and evolve. See their revenue grow and having them understand their expenses.
“You need to have an open mind. If I work faster thanks to technology, then this allows me to take on more clients as well, increasing my own business.”