A new generation of bookkeepers and accountants were making broader technology recommendations to their clients, said Xero’s former head of bookkeeping sales in Australia, Wayne Schmidt.
“Accounting firms aren’t me any more. They’re not 51 year-old males. There’s a generational shift. Some will embrace change, some won’t,” Schmidt said. “The young accountants and bookkeepers who are coming through are more like solution sellers and system integrators.”
Xero’s top accounting partners listed in its directory (labelled gold and platinum for reaching sales targets for Xero software) were providing more than accounting services, Schmidt said.
“Anyone on the first couple of pages (of the Xero directory) is a systems integrator,” Schmidt said.
Businesses were typically reluctant to change accountants. But they would soon realise how easy it was to change – a business signed with the new accountant, who sent the old one a letter requesting all the files.
Xero’s top bookkeepers still sell bank reconciliation services but not data processing. “The reduction of data entry is going to happen whether you like it or not,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt left Xero last month to set up a business advising cloud apps in the Xero ecosystem. He has also taken on the role of executive director of the Australian Bookkeepers Association, the newly created not-for-profit arm of the private company Australian Bookkeepers Network.
“I look at the traditional bookkeeping associations and they are sticking their heads in the sand and not grasping the change. They are heading for irrelevance,” Schmidt said. “Bookkeepers are going to have to change.”
Bookkeepers had to reframe their value to business owners, Schmidt said. A bookkeeper saw business owners once a quarter and told them how much GST they had to pay. An accountant saw business owners once a year and told them how much tax they had saved.
“Bookkeepers need to start transitioning away from BASes. you need to start moving into the value add. But how do you do it?” Schmidt said. Technology was an inevitable part of their future, he added.
Accountants and bookkeepers had proven their ability to recommend accounting software. Xero attributed the majority of its 200 percent annual growth to sales driven through accounting partners. But accountants and bookkeepers could recommend other cloud software that helped improve business processes – an underserved, high-demand need felt by many business owners, Schmidt said.
“When I worked at MYOB we just told partners to recommend MYOB and send them to Harvey Norman to complete the sale. It was a very good strategy and it worked really well.
When I worked at Reckon we would offer a spiv (incentive) to the Harvey Norman guy to get them onto QuickBooks and flip the sale,” Schmidt said.
Will accountants and bookkeepers one day recommend general productivity software such as Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365? “Absolutely,” Schmidt said.