By Patrick Bonnaure, founder of ProLedge Bookkeeping Services
What are the three tools that you should expect your bookkeeper to know inside out? QuickBooks, Excel and web conferencing. Yes, web conference tools are now critical if you use an outside bookkeeper to support your accounting needs.
There are many ways that you can leverage your bookkeeper. You can have her work in your office, remotely or a hybrid of those two. If your bookkeeper is in your office 40 hours a week, web conferencing is of course not very relevant, but most small businesses need between 2 hours per month and 20 hours per week of bookkeeping. In those cases web conferencing becomes critical.
You can have all the technology in place for you and your bookkeeper to access the same QuickBooks company file together, but there will always come a time when you and your bookkeeper will need to collaborate and view the same screen. Sure enough, your bookkeeper is not around when that needs comes up. Why wait for the next time your bookkeeper comes on location, which could be days or weeks away? Why struggle over the phone to describe what you are seeing in QuickBooks and have your bookkeeper guide you blindly through the steps? It takes 30 seconds to launch a web conference and it can save you hours. Not only it saves you time, but you can address the issues in real time, instead of having to wait for the next face to face meeting.
Our firm currently has offices in Austin, Dallas and Houston. Austin is a relatively small town. Our bookkeepers are usually within a 20 minute drive of their clients. If there is an emergency, our bookkeepers can jump in the car and be at the client reasonably quickly. At the other end of the spectrum, we have Houston. Distances and traffic are an order of magnitude greater! “Jumping in the car” to just see the client’s problem firsthand is seldom an option. Web Conferencing is a life saver in those cases. It saves time and it saves cost. It even saves the planet of one more gas-guzzling car trip!
Web conferencing has been around for many years and it’s a mature technology. You don’t have to be a pioneer to use it. It’s very easy to use as well. The only challenge is to develop the reflex to use it. Too many times, I see our bookkeepers and our clients struggle over the phone for 10-15 minutes before deciding to switch to web-conferencing. It shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes to figure out that the issue being discussed warrants a web-conference.
If you already have a web conference subscription, wonderful. I’m preaching to the choir. If you don’t have one, you should expect your bookkeeper to have one. It’s part of the service the bookkeeper is delivering to you. Unfortunately, that’s not often the case, in which scenario, the burden is on you to sign-up for one.
Some web conferencing services have free plans (Yugma, AnyMeeting, etc…), but you are often better off paying a small fee and getting more robust support, performance and features. The two giants in that space are GoToMeeting (owned by Citrix) and Webex (owned by Cisco). The main feature to watch out for is whether they support both Windows and Mac platforms. Many free tools work only on Windows which can be crippling if your counterpart is on a different OS than you. The other features are less mission critical when it comes to collaborating on bookkeeping.
Give it a try. Web conferencing is still wildly under-utilized in small businesses.