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Sage Advice from the Sage Circle of Excellence Accounting Awards Nominees

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The inaugural Sage Circle of Excellence Accounting Awards were recently held in Vancouver on a night that recognized and celebrated our highly active and engaged, Sage accountant and bookkeeper community. 

The nominees were put forward by their peers for recognition because of their successful efforts to main high standards in the Canadian bookkeeping industry.  

During the recent Sage Accountants Forum, each of the nominees in attendance answered questions on the topics of upskilling and training, technological disruption, the importance of networking events and the opportunities and challenges facing the industry. Each nominee also took the time to impart some Sage Advice for new and established accountants and bookkeepers.  

The importance of upskilling and training 

As one might expect, the recurring themes of becoming familiar with new technology and staying up to date with the latest app integrations featured frequently in discussions. Attending conferences and networking events remains one of the best ways for accountants and bookkeepers to stay abreast of industry trends, a belief confirmed by a number of the award nominees. 

Dianne Mueller, Soma Small Business Solutions, Gibsons, BC: 

What training or upskilling do you recommend in order to stay up to date with the latest industry trends? 

This is so important with the speed of change that is currently happening in technology and business in general, not just accounting. My clients are struggling to keep up also. Competition in business is fierce and it is survival of the fittest. Part of my services must be to help them win the game. I must examine my client business as a whole and dig into the various industries to get the latest and greatest technology that will help my clients be more effective and efficient. Industry-specific apps and specializing in a sector or type of business makes this easier to manage. 

What advice would you give accountants and bookkeepers to help them retain clients and grow their practice?  

Stop thinking bookkeeping and start thinking business growth! 

Clyde Harris, Alwyn Enterprises, Scarborough, ON: 

What training or upskilling do you recommend in order to stay up to date with the latest industry trends? 

Attending events like the Sage Forums, conferences and I have to say I really miss the Sage Summits…I find other conferences to go to too, because I try to stay up to date, not only on the software that we are using, but the software and other things that affect the group of clients that I’m working with. So, for example I have to keep up to date with what’s going on in the church industry, I have to keep up to date with government compliance with CRA charity directives and things like that.  

What advice would you give accountants and bookkeepers to help them retain clients and grow their practice? 

Retaining clients is a challenge because the client thinks they know what they need, and you’ve got to stay there with them. If they are way off base, you’ve got to know how to say goodbye. In my case, if I have one leave, I’ve had four more join me. You have to stay up to date with your client and learn what their pain points are and learn how you can help them. A lot of us in bookkeeping, don’t take the time to talk to our clients year over year and we should be. 

[When it comes to growth] The key thing I have found is to have a niche and to grow that niche. 

The benefits of networking and attending industry events 

Referrals remain a key driver for new business among accountants and bookkeepers, with industry networking events often cited as the arena where such important connections are established. It’s not just the Sage Forum events that help generate these partnerships, but also the social events that accompany them.  

Anna Abbruzzese, Actium Consulting Inc., Toronto, ON: 

How important are networking events like today and tonight for bookkeepers and accountants?  

Extremely important, I wouldn’t have the business I have, or have been able to grow it without networking with my peers. [A lead recently came in from another practitioner] and if we didn’t know each other, well it wouldn’t have happened. It can come about at these events where people can kick back and chat…and people only give business to people they like. 

What advice would you give accountants and bookkeepers to help them retain clients and grow their practice? 

Be true to yourself and to your customers. People can see through ‘fake’ very easily and I built my business 100% on referrals. Stick to what you’re good at and what you know. Don’t drop your price for clients; most of the time people will ask for a discount and it’s okay to say “no, this is my price and it is what it is”.

Joanne Pilon, Sudbury East Bookkeeping & Tax Services Inc., Sudbury ON: 

How important are networking events like today and tonight for bookkeepers and accountants?  

I think the networking events are very important and all bookkeepers and accountants should attend.  I have been working in this field (bookkeeping) for nearly 40 years, owned my business for 22 years and tried to attend as many networking events I could. These events show us what new software is out there, what new changes and updates to current software, how we can save time and make our work more efficient.  We could service our clients better today than 40 years ago. I think it is very necessary to keep up with the times, because if you don’t your clients will go elsewhere where they can upgrade to something new. 

What advice would you give accountants and bookkeepers to help them retain clients and grow their practice?  

Keep yourself up to date with new technologies and software, assess what is best for your clients and customize your clients books to suit their business not yours.  Without those clients you don’t have a business. 

The challenges that are facing accountants and bookkeepers today 

Technology was repeatedly mentioned in relation to both the opportunities and challenges that are impacting accountants and bookkeepers. Hot topics such as the need to embrace AI-powered tools and automation were on everyone’s lips as well as the evolving role of the accountant and bookkeeper.   

Marcel Levesque, ML Tax Planning & Accounting Inc., High River, AB: 

What do you think are some of the challenges that are facing accountants and bookkeepers today?  

Recognition that we are bookkeepers and/or accountants, because everybody today is a bookkeeper as they can go online or go to a store and buy a computerized program. You mightn’t know anything about accounting, but because you’re running an easy to use program you think you are a bookkeeper. It’s not that easy, this is learned when they suddenly have to do something like an audit. The adverse challenge, or opportunity to that is to get out there and be recognizedEssentially, you need to walk the beat. There’s a lot of technology coming down to us and we’re getting the firsthand information about it so we can go to our clients and sell that. see opportunity there.    

What advice would you give accountants and bookkeepers to help them retain clients and grow their practice? 

If there’s one thing I learned on day one, it was ethics. Be true to yourself and don’t cut corners. If you know that something is wrong, say it. If your clients don’t abide by it, don’t be afraid to fire them, because your code of conduct and ethics must be number one and you have to be true to what you’re doing. When you put your signature on a document, that is your name and reputation. I normally tell accountants and bookkeepers that you’ve got to be true with your figures and yourself so you can be true to your clients.  

Lori Meyer, Xln Pro Consulting Inc, Langley BC: 

What do you think are some of the challenges that are facing accountants and bookkeepers today?  

I think a lot of the challenges came up in the Forum session we attended today. Keeping up with all the apps was one that I related to. I’m excited about them and I love them and have been known to spend hours and hours playing with them, and you do have to focus and look where are your business priorities and decide which ones fit. I heard one attendee mention that they get excited when they find an app that is perfect for a client and then one comes out later that changes and she’s already got her client trained up on it, but now she needs to train them up just a little bit more. That has happened to me too. 

What advice would you give accountants and bookkeepers to help them retain clients and grow their practice? 

My advice to retaining clients would be to continue to look how you can add value to their business. I like what Bianca Mueller saidit’s not just about doing their bookkeeping and accounting, you have to look at their entire business. The more you know about it, the more you can help them out.  

Because I’m also a CPA and have not worked in the public accounting world as a CPA in a long time and have not gone up through those ranks, I do have a lot of networks and friends who are part of CPA firms and I think that is one of the best connections you can have to help you in your business. 

Debrah Burleigh, Debrah Burleigh and Associates Ltd, Surrey, BC: 

What do you think are some of the challenges that are facing accountants and bookkeepers today?  

All the automation and new technologis a huge challenge. Number 1: trying to keep up with it. Number 2: trying to figure out through automation the new ways to support your customers because now they can use software to handle more of the accounting side of things that can cut you out of the role. But, by staying up to date with technology you’re opening the door to new value you can add for your customers.  

The Practice of Now 2019

We surveyed 3,000 accountants worldwide to reveal how the accounting landscape is changing. Discover how your fellow accountants are preparing for the next decade and learn what you can do now to keep your practice successful.

Download the Report
 

What advice would you give accountants and bookkeepers to help them retain clients and grow their practice? 

Make the move to Sage Business Cloud Accounting. Once you do this, you’re taking a step to open yourself up to taking on more clients. It helps you retain your clients when you stay on top of technology, when you are more informed. You are freeing up your clients’ time to help them focus on their business by giving them opportunities to do things such as their invoices and account receivables in Sage Accounting 

Andree Dube, Intégratech, Longueil, QC: 

What do you think are some of the challenges that are facing accountants and bookkeepers today?  

AI is an issue facing many professions and potentially affecting many jobs right nowI love change and I think it’s a cool thing that the industry needs to get with it and enjoy the ride. Bookkeepers and accountants have been slow to adopt to it. They need to understand that they will not lose their jobs because of it, rather they will do their job differently. You can do a lot more for clients, such as consulting and advising and not just bookkeeping so they should embrace it. We’ve been talking about it for 10 years. It’s been here without massive adoption, but we’re getting there now. 

What advice would you give accountants and bookkeepers to help them retain clients and grow their practice? 

It all starts with giving good service. Simply be there! Be there for your clients when they need you and never sell yourself short.

The opportunities that are facing the industry today 

Expert knowledge was championed as one of the strengths that is continuously harnessed by Canadian accountants and bookkeepers. Another positive takeaway was the notable evidence of collaboration among stakeholders in the industry, especially between different generations of accountants and bookkeepers. With automation being a widely discussed topic, there was also encouraging chatter about the added value accountants and bookkeepers can provide clients now that they aren’t bogged down as much by manual entry tasks.         

Karen Brault RSM Canada, Red Deer, AB: 

What do you think are some of the opportunities that are facing accountants and bookkeepers today?  

There are opportunities in the tech and the training that we can provide for other accountants and bookkeepers. A lot of offices and companies have their own internal bookkeepers and accountants and they need training too. Now, we are the experts in all this stuff that we are working in everyday so the training opportunities out there are huge. We need to let them know how to use these apps and how to best utilize them to help them in their business.  

What advice would you give accountants and bookkeepers to help them retain clients and grow their practice? 

I would say, for retention keep up with the knowledge. If you fall behind people are going to notice that and they’re going to give up on you. They want to be fast forward in their business, and they need to know numbers and financial statements and you need to have these at the tip of your fingers. If you can’t give that to them then you’re falling behind for them. 

Build your profile. Get out there and make sure that people know who you are. Get involved in your community and attend events and get on social media. Get on sites on which people are actively seeking help and start answering some of those accounting and bookkeeping questions. Once people get a comfort level for what you know, you’re going to grow your business. 

Marge Wegren-Debre, P51 Computing Strategies, Edmonton, AB: 

What do you think are some of the opportunities that are facing accountants and bookkeepers today?  

The networking and the collaboration. We’ve seen a big change in the last five years in that way and that’s the saving grace for us all. It used to be very territorial. I think part of the change happened because some of us ‘pioneers’ didn’t want new bookkeepers coming up to go through the same struggles that we did, so [now we are] sharing what we learned with those that want to learn from us. The fear has come away from the collaboration level. It’s a different type of openness now too based on ‘how can we help each other?’ as opposed to just, ‘what can I take from you? 

What advice would you give accountants and bookkeepers to help them retain clients and grow their practice?  

For retaining clients, I would say, never stop paying attention to what they need because we need to evolve, so do they. Sometimes they’re up against changes that they don’t want to make because of the industry they’re in, but nobody is going to survive unless we do. So, keeping that pulse [is important], which means keeping a really good relationship with them. 

I think the growth part also falls into that, because if you’re keeping a pulse of what they need and as their needs change if you can adapt and provide resources for those changes your business evolves as you do that.   

Bianca Mueller, Books by Bianca, Burnaby, BC: 

What do you think are some of the opportunities that are facing accountants and bookkeepers today?  

One aspect is the potential for specialization and getting more into high level controller and mentorship roles. It’s also great to see that we’re getting rid of the monotonous manual data entry and the things that I don’t feel necessarily make me a better bookkeeper.  

What advice would you give accountants and bookkeepers to help them retain clients and grow their practice? 

Stay up to date with industry trends and educate your clients and your peers on what you can do help each other in this industry. I think we need to rely on each other a lot more and learn from each other. We are all a very amazing collective group together.   

Sara Gibb, Sara’s Bookkeeping Services, Chemainus, BC: 

What do you think are some of the opportunities that are facing accountants and bookkeepers today? 

There’s a big opportunity in embracing technology. I had a system that was comfortable, but I was a onewoman show and I was getting maxed out, I was working late hours and weekends. I had to embrace the technology before bringing on new staff and get a workflow in place so I could take on new staff and still be able to grow my business.  

What advice would you give accountants and bookkeepers to help them retain clients and grow their practice? 

The best advice I could give would be to maintain clear and consistent communication with your clients. After that, I would say to embrace technology and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. That’s how you get more clients. The more you put yourself out there, the more clients will come to you. 

Photo Gallery

Click to see the photos from the Sage Circle of Excellence Accounting Awards ceremony on the award winners page.

 

The Practice of Now 2019

We surveyed 3,000 accountants worldwide to reveal how the accounting landscape is changing. Discover how your fellow accountants are preparing for the next decade and learn what you can do now to keep your practice successful.

Download the Report

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