How Can We Compete Against Outsourced Accounting and Automated Bookkeeping?

The way in which many small businesses are getting their bookkeeping and accounting done is changing. With the convenience of online technology and the Internet making the world a smaller place, you may find yourself feeling like this colleague. He emailed me asking how can we compete…

“I received an email from an Indian-based company offering all things accounting / bookkeeping via internet at £6 per hour. So as we are going more and more automated and not requiring to live local to clients, how can I compete?”

Has the demand for local accountants and bookkeepers died?

The fact is, most small businesses still work with accountants and bookkeepers based on referrals. When it comes to finding professional who can help mange their financial information, most small business owners want someone they can trust.

There's a reason that online directories of accounting professionals provided by software companies such as Intuit, Xero and Sage (as well as all other online directories I’ve found) focus on finding a professional “near me.”

The vast majority of prospective clients search for local professionals.  There’s a sense of security in knowing that you can physically meet with your accountant or bookkeeper personally, if needed.

That’s just human.

How can we compete against ridiculously low fees?

The reasons a business owner is looking to engage a new accounting professional will have a significant bearing on what he focuses on when evaluating a firm. Price is just one of the factors. It should not be the only one.

If a potential client is only looking for someone to do minimum compliance work that his sister’s boyfriend’s cousin was doing previously for free, then getting the cheapest price is probably what he cares about most. He's looking to do the minimum required by law.

Don’t you have more to offer than an entry-level bookkeeper does?

Repeat after me, “High quality accounting professionals do not compete on price.”

We provide value to our clients that is worth far more than informing them what they owe in taxes (when it’s too late to do anything about it), or whether their bank account is overdrawn.

Will technology make us obsolete as software companies employ more and more automation?

As automation takes hold, more of the large firms are focusing on competing in the “race to the bottom” pricing game for commodity level services. That's not our gig.

We should be moving toward higher value, personalized, consultative-level services that are providing measurable value based on results for our clients. It’s a different quality of service altogether. (Think the difference between a fast-food restaurant and a fine steakhouse)

There are many avenues for expanding your expertise to higher quality service offerings at premium prices. You are (or should be) in a different league than outsourced bookkeeping services from India, or automated robots watching over routine bank feeds as their primary function.

Instead, you are providing personalized support and advice to business owners in your own country where you understand the language, the culture, and the legal requirements specific to your clients’ situation. Most importantly, you understand the value of providing only what an engaged professional can: true understanding, caring and advice that supports reaching your clienst' most important goals… beyond the number alone.

The landscape is changing… and opening higher level opportunities… if you're willing to step up

I believe we are now beginning to see a widening gap between accounting professionals who are willing to make the transition from compliance-only services to higher value advisory, and those who won’t. The scene of this profession is definitely changing, and the pace is increasing rapidly.

Ready or not, here it comes! Are you ready?

What got you where you are now is not what will get you to the next level as the gap increases. The middle ground is sinking quickly, and you'll need to decide which side you're on, sooner rather than later.

Start now to dig deeper into what options are available and start setting your plan of action on how you can benefit from the lucrative opportunities emerging, instead of being one of the casualties.

One way to start that journey is to tap into a panel of experts who are focused on what we see happening right now in our profession in the Accounting Profession Disruption course available in AddviserPlus.

What are your thoughts?

What has been your experience or plan with the influx of cheap overseas outsourced services and large low-priced, semi-automated accounting offerings from the likes of KPMG, Intuit's upcoming QuickBooks Live and Botkeeper? Have you lost clients to them yet?

Please share your experiences in the comments below.


Author: Gabrielle Fontaine

Freelance bookkeeper, trainer and consultant who works with internet savvy business consultants and bookkeeping professionals to maximize cash flow, streamline online workflow and grow true win-win success... one client at a time. Browse Gabrielle's courses OR

2 thoughts on “How Can We Compete Against Outsourced Accounting and Automated Bookkeeping?”

  1. I don’t know why anyone would outsource to another country. That puts sensitive personal and business data in the hands of who-knows-whom in who-knows-where with who-knows-what kind of computer security in place. That’s just nuts.

    1. I agree with you Sheryl. That said, there are many accounting firms that use overseas labor. Often the outsourcing firms they use have local counterparts who provide the supervision and assurances. But personally I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it unless they could convince me they had proper controls in place, which would be hard to do I think.

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