choose your little black dress of technology

illustration with two hands framing three laptops, phones, software symbolsmake sure your apps play well with others.

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

software is always changing, and new products come to market quicker than ever before. twenty-five years ago, software such as quickbooks, peachtree, accpac and mas changed how we did accounting. ledger books became a thing of the past as we could now review ledgers on a computer screen. in the last nine years, cloud-based systems have radically changed accounting once again.

more:going viral: today’s top marketing strategies|marketing? know your goals first|eight things to stop doing now|you don’t have to do everything|why ai is not the enemy
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the technology landscape can be confusing, but that will always be the case. your goal is to find what works for you and train your team and clients on a limited number of products that can become the base of your work. we call this our little black dress.
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going viral: today’s top marketing strategies

when did you last optimize?

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

the global pandemic has significantly impacted every aspect of business and our society, including digital marketing and how we do business. accounting firms had to pivot and shift their practices to increase their online presence to stay connected with clients, find a way to stay relevant, and increase their client base.

more:marketing? know your goals first|pick your favorite clients|keep the accountants focused on accounting|what do you want advisory services to be?|meet the new bos|why ai is not the enemy
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the pandemic initially muted and almost eliminated traditional marketing, such as in-person meetings, conferences, and other events, and it amplified the importance of digital marketing in growing accounting practices.

many turned to social media, producing more relevant content, increasing their paid ads budgets, and launching webinars and podcasts. digital marketing is here for good, and firms must embrace it to grow. whatever business goals you have, you can utilize several digital marketing strategies and platforms to achieve them and significantly impact the future of your practice or firm.
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marketing? know your goals first

digital strategies level the playing field.

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

picking the best clients won’t automatically bring you a steady stream of eager prospects, ready to pay you their hard-earned cash. you have to do some work to help them find you.

more:pick your favorite clients|top ten types of clients (and 24 more reader suggestions)|eight things to stop doing now|keep the accountants focused on accounting|which kind of team do you have?|you don’t have to do everything|what do you want advisory services to be?|meet the new bos|why ai is not the enemy
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most accountants and bookkeepers would rather do anything other than marketing. most equate marketing with being a pushy and sleazy used-car salesman. a better way to think about marketing is telling the world what you do, who you do it for, and how you can help the people who need your help.
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pick your favorite clients

happy business professionals giving high five hand slapthen get more work from those clients.

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

you cannot do everything all at once for everyone. this group exercise calls on your team to be an integral part of selecting the best clients to approach for back-office support services.

more:top ten types of clients (and 24 more reader suggestions)|eight things to stop doing now|you don’t have to do everything|why ai is not the enemy
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sit down with your team members and identify those clients you like working with now. get their experience of working with these clients. because your team’s collaboration is critical to success, getting their input is vital. the changes that occur will affect them as much as it will your clients.
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top ten types of clients (and 24 more reader suggestions)

two women in office shake handsbonus: how verticals and the gig economy can help you.

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

taking on a client’s internal accounting work requires a level of comfort for both the business owner and the accounting firm. a client that has already provided you with access to sensitive financial data is easier to work with than a new business with no previous relationship. once you have done it well with current clients a few times, then you are ready to do this with prospects.

more:eight things to stop doing now|keep the accountants focused on accounting|which kind of team do you have?|you don’t have to do everything|what do you want advisory services to be?|meet the new bos|why ai is not the enemy

reader favorite:the 24 personalities of individual tax returns (and the clients behind them)
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understand that to be able to effectivelyin-sourceyour client’s internal accounting work to your accounting firm, you need on-demand access to your client’s information. it doesn’t work if you have to wait for someone to send you the information you need. understand that the processes you use today for write-up and compliance work will not transfer well to this level of client collaboration.
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eight things to stop doing now

superhero businesswoman wearing shadow capesometimes work belongs in other hands.

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

a firm we worked with in philadelphia has a dedicated administrative assistant for their teams.

more:keep the accountants focused on accounting|which kind of team do you have?|you don’t have to do everything|what do you want advisory services to be?|meet the new bos|why ai is not the enemy
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she is not a bookkeeper. however, she is very organized and a dedicated team player. after she had been doing it for a while, i asked her what she now saw her function to be. her answer is:read more →

keep the accountants focused on accounting

six businesspeople in meeting around tablechecklist: the 10 questions you need to ask.

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

i’ve developed a series of questions to assess someone’s aptitude for being on a team. each person in your firm who is a possible member of the back office support (bos) team needs to answer these questions. that includes you, as you are a potential team member.

more:which kind of team do you have?|you don’t have to do everything|what do you want advisory services to be?|meet the new bos|why ai is not the enemy
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ask others in your firm or people you work with outside your firm to give you feedback on these questions as they see you and the other potential members of your team. their responses will give you a second filtering of your potential as well as others you would like on your team. notice these are not questions relating to the competencies in accounting functions. the assumption is that you and your people already possess those skills.
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the philosophy behind a team

high angle view of business people stacking hands in a teamwork gesturewhere does ai fit? as a team member.

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

team building can be a difficult concept in a compartmentalized world. accounting firms are often set up so that specific people within the firm do specific work and are not always involved in the setup, mid-work or outcome. that is a function of 19th- and 20th-century education and business work practices as well as the native privacy inherent in minding clients’ financial data.

more:which kind of team do you have?|you don’t have to do everything|what do you want advisory services to be?|meet the new bos|why ai is not the enemy
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but as andres oppenheimer points out in his book “the robots are coming!,” it is the specialized functions of professionals that are most susceptible to automation. the more specialized the work and the information used, the more a robot can automate.
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which kind of team do you have?

group of businesspeople hiding their faces behind question mark signs at officefive non-accounting aspects critical to success.

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

before you can build a back office support (bos) practice, you need to assess what kind of team you already have. let’s look at two similar and at the same time uniquely different accounting and tax businesses who contacted me for help in outsourcing some of their bookkeeping.

more:you don’t have to do everything|what do you want advisory services to be?|meet the new bos|why ai is not the enemy
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both businesses have multiple offices; both have multipartner owners; both do taxes, accounting and bookkeeping; and both list client advisory services. both have ownership and employees of a similar age. both exist along the same coast. both of these accounting businesses appear successful. one business is full of happy employees, owners and cooperative clients. the other business has the wordnofiguratively imprinted on their front door.
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you don’t have to do everything

delegate, partner, outsource … according to plan.

diagram

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

back office support for the accounting firm defines you and your firm. are you servicing clients who are part of the past, or are you servicing clients living into the future? remember the new generation of business owners has never owned a filing cabinet, fax machine, landline, printer and turntables (only if they are into retro music!).

more:what do you want advisory services to be?|meet the new bos|why ai is not the enemy
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the diagram above is how i think about “advisory services.” the traditional role of an accountant has been as steward and operator. if you’re happy there, then that’s ok, this post will help you streamline your processes and technology to deliver these services more efficiently and profitably. and if you want to move into higher valued (and higher paying!) work and play a role in transforming your clients’ businesses, and play the role of strategist and catalyst, then we’ll show you how.
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what do you want advisory services to be?

woman on video conference with four other peoplebonus: a case study for bos work.

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

what do you want to do for your clients? define it, implement it in yourself and build a team that wants to be a part of your defined image. watch it grow, and adapt it to the changing times.

more:meet the new bos|why ai is not the enemy
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added knowledge and insights assist the client in taking future action on sustainability and growth of their company. cooperation between the client, the account manager and the cloud ai makes this work in order to provide the space for advisory.
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meet the new bos

woman using tablet in front of laptop and desktopbonus: a case study of how not to do things.

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

accounting businesses have historically provided a range of “after-the-fact” compliance services including year-end accounting and tax return preparation. many firms also provide “write-up” services, which involve the recording of business transactions based on documents generated by the client, such as invoices, checks, deposit slips and documents provided by third parties, such as bank statements and payroll reports. write-up work is typically done once a month, after the fact.

more:why ai is not the enemy
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today, major innovations in technology are giving accountants the opportunity to expand their services and to provide much more comprehensive, timely and useful information to their clients.

one area of expansion is offering clients a complete back office support (bos) manager, which can include:read more →

why ai is not the enemy

clients still need context.

by penny breslin
it’s not just the numbers

in 1994, in a small hotel meeting room in colorado springs, 50 accounting firms were up in arms when the presenter mentioned quickbooks. they shouted angry comments: “quickbooks is destroying my business.” “they want to take my clients.” “they are giving people a false sense of security with their commercials that say, ‘if you can write a check, you can do quickbooks.’”

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the presenter was nervous and asked me what he was to do. i said i use quickbooks for your company, and i have no idea what i am doing, and i could use an accountant to teach me.

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