Industry Insights

The evolving role of the bookkeeper

Zoe Whitman

In Conversation with

Zoe Whitman

,

Award winning entrepreneur

July 2020

The role of an accountant and bookkeeper is constantly evolving. Solely focusing on compliance is no longer sufficient as clients seek a closer relationship with their figures and interest for additional advisory services rises. Technology can be a key enabler in allowing accountants and bookkeepers to thrive in this demand. By simply implementing cloud-based tools that automate the compliance side of payroll, practices can open up a previously untapped revenue stream, increase profit margins and free up time to focus on adding real advisory value to clients.

Zoe Whitman - award winning entrepreneur and a prominent member within the UK finance industry - has recognised the opportunity as a chance for bookkeepers to gain a competitive edge that will benefit their practice. Which is why she co-founded The Bookkeepers’ 6 Month Success Programme, an online course for bookkeepers to harness this opportunity. 


In this interview with Zoe, we unpack with the importance of technology, and her thoughts on the evolution of the role of the bookkeeper in the industry:


How important does the role of technology play in your service?

Technology was important when I started my practice, because I wanted to be really clear on what our internal system would look like in order to work smoothly with our clients. It was important that we were consistent in getting everyone to use the same technology because it made us more efficient and effective as a practice in general.


What are your thoughts on technology that utilises automated features?

We use Receipt Bank which automates a lot of manual input, and I also utilise automated email campaigns when people sign up to my mailing list. To me, it’s all about saving time. If it’s something that would normally require a manual process but there is now an opportunity to streamline it using technology, then I’m all for it.


How has the role of the accountant and bookkeeper evolved from when you first started?

When I started the practice, it was just me working as a freelancer at my kitchen table just doing data processing. So very basic work. And as I got to know the clients I was working with, I started to see that they were asking more questions. They wanted to understand what the numbers were saying because they wanted to be able to make decisions. And as the person who was the closest to their numbers and their transactions, I was the best placed person to give them that advice. 


So for bookkeepers there is a real opportunity to become the go-to advisor because you’re armed with the data. So yes, learning how I was placed to help my clients see the value in the services I was providing and being able to start to offer advisory services and that helped grow the business. 


We’re definitely noticing that advisory is something that is emerging in the scene

Yes and that’s why we’re running the Bookkeepers’ 6 Month Success Programme because we know that bookkeepers need to step up because there is a real opportunity to do more.


Do you think there are hurdles for bookkeepers to get to that point where they can move into a more advisory role?

I think it’s probably experience and knowing what is involved. A lot of times people will say “I'm just a bookkeeper,” and they don’t realise that they are actually people who have all the knowledge at their fingertips. 


The lack of confidence to interpret the data can also be another hurdle.

What do you think is essential in growing a bookkeeping practice? 

I think the most important thing to grow a practice is to understand who your target audience is. Because then you can target those people directly and you can get really good at providing services to a particular industry that helps you to then get known within that industry and your business can grow that way. 


Follow Zoe on Facebook or Instagram, or find out more on her website.

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