I’m a cheerleader for women and an accountant bursting with personality.
For a lot of people, spending time with your accountant is about as fun as having your moustache bleached. That’s because, historically speaking, a meeting with your accountant comes complete with flashbacks of dingy offices, ticking clocks and old men in spectacles sorting through a shoebox full of receipts.
Thankfully, finance looks a little different these days (hello ladies!) and the rapid rise in online software and digital accounting solutions means that those days are mostly behind us.
As we look to the future of finance, particularly in a post-COVID world, what does this shift online mean for your relationship with your accountant? Is there a benefit to having a bean counter around the corner, or can you achieve the same results from home in your fanciest slippers?
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the local versus virtual accountant debate.
“Physical location is no longer a boundary ”
Virtual Versus Face-to-Face Meetings
While a lot of our business activities these days can be conducted via email, the ‘meeting’ is not going anywhere anytime soon.
There would hardly be a person who hasn’t been introduced to the world of Zoom, Google Hangouts or FaceTime over the past few years. While the majority of us might be feeling like ‘Zoombies’ after one too many online meetings during the pandemic, these new ways of connecting have opened up a world of possibilities for business owners.
The benefit of virtual meetings is that they can literally be done from anywhere with an internet connection. This can be useful if you are:
- Time poor or can’t take physical time away from your place of business
- You work from home or you have children or other caring responsibilities
- You want to work with an accountant on the other side of the country
- You have accessibility requirements that an office can’t meet
- You love your pyjamas too much and would simply like to meet from the comfort of your own home!
The role of your accountant is to keep your books in order, to have a firm understanding of your business and its finances and to be there to answer any questions about your business’ finances. Thankfully, this is possible both in person and in an online setting.
But What Suits You Best?
→ Are you someone who needs to be sitting side by side with someone to take in information or to get your point across?
→ Or are you happy to make a coffee at home and jump on Zoom to meet with your business advisers?
Apart from the fact that we’re cool people that are fun to hang out with, these days there is no real benefit to meeting with your accountant ‘IRL’; unfortunately no secret handshakes, discount codes or passwords to unlock the mystical world of Narnia.
The reality is that, with seemingly endless rounds of restrictions and lockdowns, you could be two streets away from your accountant and not able to visit them anyway. So, this is probably a big tick in the ‘doesn’t need to be local’ column.
“The benefit of virtual meetings is that they can literally be done from anywhere”
Software Versus Shoeboxes
From your account reconciliation to your sales, receipts and business records – since the advent of Xero, Quickbooks, Reckon, MYOB, Stripe, Shopify and others – you can pretty much throw away (or recycle!) your shoeboxes at this point.
If you work in a predominantly cash economy, are still doing old school handwritten receipts or you do a lot of your bookkeeping and accounting manually, this might feel a little scary. But the truth is – at some point, your business will need some kind of cloud-based software, and there’s probably been no better time to make the switch.
Other than the fact that you can drop in and physically hand over all your paperwork, there is no real benefit to working with a local accountant from a pure record-keeping and accounting perspective. There is mail, there are couriers, and shoeboxes are for shoes, not receipts. So, that’s another big tick in the virtual accountant column.
Anonymity Versus Centre of Attention
Have you ever had one of your kids invited to a playdate only to discover that the kid’s parent is actually your gynaecologist? Awkward. For some people, exposing your books can be just as confronting as exposing your bits, and you might not want to stare that person straight in the face when you’re just trying to pick up some takeaway or take the dog for a walk.
Of course, as professionals, we are bound by strict confidentiality laws and you certainly won’t hear us blabbing about your private and personal financial information to anyone outside the four walls of our office. However, for some, having people they know (either directly or indirectly) able to access their financial information is a deal breaker, and that’s completely fair enough.
On the other hand, having an accountant who knows your local area and who knows other businesses that you can connect with locally, can be a huge advantage. And while we certainly love connecting people with opportunities and like minds and we have an in-depth knowledge of the businesses and conditions in the Toowoomba area, like most businesses – our rolodex crosses this vast country from Perth to Parramatta.
The question to ask yourself is:
→ Am I willing to bump into my accountant at the gynaecologist or have someone I know look under the hood (of your business that is, ha!)?
If that doesn’t phase you, local or virtual shouldn’t matter. But if the thought sends shivers down your spine, then perhaps a local accountant is the last thing you need!
We Love Local But It Isn’t Always Best
By now we have three pretty big ticks in the ‘virtual’ column and a mini in the local, so we wanted to clear something up before we dive into this last one: we love local! Every day we are looking for ways to support local businesses, sponsor local events and donate to local not-for-profits.
However, we’ve come to understand the definition of ‘local’ is subjective and ever-changing – does it mean down the road, in the next suburb, in your particular community, in your state or territory, or just ‘Aussie made’?
All of us are living and working in a more globalised context than ever before, and in our experience, choosing an accountant is less about the postcode and more about the connection and level of expertise.
You want to know your accountant is the best at what they do and that you have a rapport with them. So, just like you might travel afar to get the best medical or legal advice, going a little further afar to find the best accountant from you can be a smart and strategic business decision. The most important thing is that you find an accountant that you *actually* want to spend time with, and who you feel understands your business and wants to see you succeed.
The question of whether or not it’s better for your accountant to be local is one we hear more often than you think at The Women’s Accountant. And while we love a local, we believe that the future of finance is online. Our ability as accountants to support businesses anywhere, anytime is growing by the day.
If you want a quick way to figure out what’s best for you, answer these four questions:
- Am I happy to meet my accountant online and trust she has pants on even though I can only see her face? Y/N
- Can I make a coffee myself or get one from a local cafe instead of dropping into my accountant’s office for one? Y/N
- Do I feel afraid of bumping into my accountant at gynaecologist or have someone I may know look under the (business) hood? Y/N
- Is it fine that my accountant might not have an intimate knowledge of my local area or local industry? Y/N
If you answered ‘yes’ to the above, then maybe a local accountant is the best bet for you. However, if it’s ‘no’s’ across the board, then it’s safe to have a look around for a tech-savvy and cloud-based accounting firm that is happy to pour a virtual bubbly and do your books.