In recent weeks, some accounting firms who rely on bookkeepers to provide on-site support for clients have run into problems due to the Covid-19 social distancing rules, says GroForth’s Sarah Daly.
Social distancing is becoming a problem for accounting firms who send a bookkeeper out to a client’s premises every week or month to keep the client’s records up to date. Typically the bookkeeper works on things like processing invoices, reconciling bank statements, chasing customers for payment, posting journal entries, preparing or checking VAT returns, and so on. However, the Covid-19 social distancing requirements mean that some clients are no longer able to allow the bookkeeper into their premises. This is leading to a backlog of processing which in turn increases the likelihood of gaps and errors in records as time goes on.
Accountants know all too well that cleaning up a client’s records can be a headache and the headache gets bigger if they have multiple clients’ records to sort out and are under pressure at a filing deadline. That’s where a specialist service provider like GroForth can help.
Reasons why accountants seek back office support
In recent weeks, I’ve had a number of enquiries from accounting firms asking about our back office support services. There are a couple of common themes: Covid-19 is forcing some businesses to completely change their administrative processes, switching some processes online to facilitate working from home or to serve customers remotely.
And it’s not just employees who are working from home—business owners and managers too have been forced to stay home due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Recently, we shared some tips on this blog about how people working from home during the Covid-19 crisis can use this time wisely.
As well as the impact on processes and people, the pandemic has also played havoc with budgets and forecasts so many accounting firms are finding that more clients than usual need help in that area at present.
Non Covid-19 related issues include clients needing help sorting out backlogs or support with payroll following the new PAYE regime that came into effect last year.
Helping accounting firms deliver high quality support for clients
For accounting firms, an advantage of using Groforth’s back office support services is that we understand these problems and are very focused on finding solutions that help accountants deliver the high quality support that their clients have come to expect.
Our relationships with accounting firms are based on trust and we put a lot of emphasis on things like privacy, security and controlling and limiting access to data.
It’s important that our accountancy firm clients know we’re not trying to poach their business. We actually want to help them to grow their businesses. Our focus is on giving them more time to concentrate on their higher value work as well as on their business development.
A lot of back office accounting work is process driven. As a process driven business ourselves, we understand how to streamline processes and enhance efficiency and we’ve been working in accounts long enough to know where to find the opportunities for improvement.
Using technology to enhance back office support
We also know that good decisions depend on access to good information so we put a lot of emphasis on using data to generate reports that really add value for our customers. Technology is key. Today’s online systems make it easy to capture data at its source whether that is bank statement, invoices, point of sales information, or expenses. However, it’s only when you know how to leverage that information that you can really start to add value.
Our knowledge of accounting software packages like Xero and SortmyBooks, as well as a broad range of other technologies and apps, means we understand how to automate processes quickly. This has been a great advantage during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our experience is very helpful for accounting firms who may not have the right in-house resources to support their clients in this area in the current crisis.
Traditional back office accounting work
At the same time, GroForth still does a lot of the traditional back office work that accountants need — chasing missing documentation, finding and resolving inconsistencies, reconciling balance sheets, checking profit and loss accounts, ensuring fixed assets are correctly recorded, doing bank reconciliations, tracking down missing payroll data, finding errors in VAT rates, issuing payroll and RCT reminders, and so on. Even if an accountant’s client is using paper invoices, for example, we can take the invoices and scan them — digitising the data first so that we can then digitalise the process.
Outsourced finance department
As well as providing back office support for accounting firms, GroForth also acts as an outsourced finance department if an accountant recommends that his/her client should outsource their finance function or management accounting. Some accountants tell us that their clients don’t always understand what this involves so we recently wrote an article to explain what it means to outsource your accounting or bookkeeping.
At the time of writing, we are beginning to see the first tentative moves towards lifting the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. So, if your accounting firm needs back office support while adapting to the ‘new normal’, do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!