How do you decide which bookkeeping software to trust?

It’s not often that you see a huge supplier to your business sector subliminally promoting you. Maybe that’s stretching the facts but I was amused to see a recent post on the Sage One blog titled: TrustMark.

TrustMark is a Government backed quality scheme that is intended to signpost people to reputable local firms and expert tradespeople working to Government-endorsed standards.

Why am I referencing TurstMark here? Partly because I found the post on the SageOne blog, partly because it sounds like an encouragement to recognise my integrity but primarily because of an analogy that I hope you’ll find useful.

It seems that TrustMark was launched 10 years ago, which means I should have come across it previously. I’d have thought I would remember, but it seems not. I would imagine that there was a bit of a fuss about it when it was launched. Since then it has been partly superseded by better known and better funded alternatives eg: Checkatrade, TrustedTraders and TrustaTrader – even though they are all quite different.

Something similar has happened in the world of bookkeeping and accounting software. I read recently that Sage has reached 100,000 Sage One subscriptions in the UK. Few of the alternative suppliers have the same pedigree and yet we often hear more about them than we do about Sage. Why is that I wonder?

I’m not a tech blogger as you know. My focus is on helping individual accountants (and other professionals) to STAND OUT from their competitors, from their peers and from the crowd. The accounting and bookkeeping software houses have to do this too. I imagine they all seem pretty interchangeable at first glance. But I understand that there are some quite significant differences in terms of functionality, price, support, ease of use (for you and for clients) and all sorts of other factors.

If you have yet to choose a preferred solution you need to be careful to avoid simply following the herd. What suits other small practitioners may not be ideal for you and your client base.

Indeed there are plenty of accountants who are, effectively, software agnostics. They are happy to use different software for different clients. If this approach resonates, what will be your policy when you learn that a prospective new client uses a bookkeeping package that is new to your practice? Is there a limit as to how many different packages you will allow your clients to use?

Now that you have the facility to run these programmes in the cloud one key reason for limiting the number of different packages has gone. Cloud based software doesn’t require you to install regular or even annual updates. In theory therefore there is no need to limit the number of different packages that clients use. That is unless you have learned from experience or from other accountants of limitations and irritants that you wish to avoid.

But I am now in danger of over stretching my ability to comment on these systems. I like to limit myself to those topics about which I can speak with some authority – whether on my blog, in workshops or on conference stages.

Three years ago I spoke at the Sage Accountants Roadshow on the #FutureOfAccounting. The focus of my presentation was how accountants can use social media. As ever, I debunked some of the hype (much of which exists to this day). I love doing this and my enthusiasm for doing so probably comes across even stronger now than it did in 2013.

I used an analogy back then comparing social media to a car. I suggested that some accountants who start using social media are like people who get into car and try to drive without first understanding anything about the clutch and the gearstick. It wouldn’t be a very comfortable journey and might well put one off driving. Many accountants who try out social media are in much the same position. They don’t find it useful or helpful, principally because they have bought into the hype but don’t really understand what they are doing.

Does the same sort of thing happen with some cloud based bookkeeping and accounting packages? As we move into 2016 I suspect that we will hear more about which suppliers we can really trust. What do you think?

This blog post was kindly sponsored by SageOne.

 

 

 

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STAND OUT Christmas greetings

I tried to do something different this year. Like many others I stopped sending cards to everyone a while back. 
 
These days cards sent with a personal message can STAND OUT positively as they are now much less common than once was the case.
Some cards and messages specifically STAND OUT. I remember one card I received a couple of years ago from the presenter of a course I had attended 3 months earlier. It was a bespoke card with a handwritten message. I kept it for months. I assume he’d sent them to all attendees. It must have been a labour of love, but it paid off.
Maybe it’s me, but with the odd exception, I don’t remember who did or didn’t send me a card or a message last year. I recall I received loads of ecards – some with attached videos as is happening again this year. 
 
The only ones that really STAND OUT for me are the bespoke ones – like those produced for five years running now by the accountancy firm Cassons.
Other popular variations are the standard good wishes email, a newsletter review of the year or a card with printed signatures. 
There’s a lot to be said for sending genuinely personalised messages to special clients and connections. Physical gifts often STAND OUT too. I recall receiving a book last year that a business contact had chosen from my online amazon wish list – it was a complete surprise and very thoughtful. 
But what about your wider network? Only you can say what will have the most powerful impact or, indeed, if cards and messages etc are appropriate across the board at Christmas time in our multi-cultural and multi-faith society.
I’m always touched by the cards and messages I receive at this time of year – but mostly only where I sense some genuine thoughtfulness that shows I am considered to be more than simply a name on a database. 
The key question, as ever, is why do you send Christmas cards and messages to business connections? Are you doing it because you always have? Because you like to give (and to receive)? Do you consider it the ‘right’ thing to do? What would people think if you don’t do anything? (I suspect that many will not even notice!) It’s a way to keep in touch? (Really? as one of hundreds of people doing much the same thing at the same time of year?)
Does your chosen approach help you achieve your objectives?
I have tried something different this year. I sent a series of 3 festive greetings related emails to my wider (15,000+) network. I first divided the list into 5 groups and tailored the messages for each group. 
The first email apologised for an email mess-up I made recently and also contained a greeting plus a daft disclaimer. I’ve copied this below for posterity.
The second email contained greetings and gifts. These were free downloads that I genuinely hope will be of value. I tailored the gifts for each of the 5 groups of recipients.
The third email encouraged recipients to identify 3 or 4 key achievements of which they are proud in 2015. And then to set 3 or 4 key objectives for the coming year. I shared my own too. Again, I have copied this email below as you may find it helpful too.
Email 1 – Greetings and giggles for you
Let me start with an apology for the recent emails I sent asking if you wanted to remain on my list. Then I have something I hope you’ll enjoy. 
 
The recent emails were intended for people I was emailing but who didn’t seem to be interested. Sadly I set things up wrong which meant that the emails also went to people like you whom I hadn’t emailed for a while. I’m really sorry. 
Now I’m serious about wanting to send personal greetings to you and all of the other people I know. It would take a heck of a long time to do that as, in addition to you, I’m in touch with thousands of others too.
I don’t know the answer but that’s why this email contains more than simple best wishes for the holidays and New Year. And it’s also why you’ll receive two further greetings from me over the next few days. 
 
For now I send my best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and a healthy, happy, prosperous and non-too taxing New Year.
To cover all bases I should add the following disclaimer:
These festive wishes are sent with no obligation, implied or implicit and carry no guarantee as to the outcome for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or your choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all…
…and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2016, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make Britain great, (not to imply that Britain is necessarily greater than any other country) and without regard to your race, creed, colour, age, height, weight, physical ability, religious faith, sexual preferences, choice of computer platform or internet browser. 

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by me to actually implement any of the wishes for you or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at my sole discretion.
These wishes are warranted to perform as can reasonably be expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and this warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish whenever I feel like it. 
 
Email 2 – Greetings and gifts. See below
 

Email 3 –  Review and forward planning for 2016 

Last week I sent you my formal festive greetings and then some links to special gifts that I hope you’ll find useful. 
 
In this third and final installment of festive greetings I invite you to identify your top 3 achievements in 2015 and the 3 things you would most like to get done in 2016. This should help you finish the year on a high and excited for what is to follow. I’ve also shared my own answers to the same two questions.
 
Doing this yourself also means you’ll be more inclined to talk positively about things when you are chatting with family and friends over the next couple of weeks. Not that you’ll be focused on work then of course. But just in case it comes up. Or maybe your achievements and ambitions are not work related anyway.
 
It’s all too easy to dwell on stuff that’s not gone as we would have liked. Some people find doing this helps motivate them to do better next year. It doesn’t work for me though.
 
I always encourage those with whom I work to adopt a more positive mindset. But to remain realistic of course.
 
So, two questions for you:
 
1 – What are the 3 or 4 things you have achieved this year of which you are most proud? 
 
2 – What are the 3 or 4 things you are seriously keen to achieve in 2016?
 
Answering the first question is likely to get you in the right frame of mind to answer the second question.
 
If you want to talk about how I might be able to help you achieve those 2016 objectives do get in touch.
 
For now, I repeat my previous wishes for a fabulous xmas and a wonderful new year.
 
Regards
Mark
 
ps: If you’re interested my answers to the questions are:
 
2015 – Most proud:
1 – After keynoting at the ICPA 2015 annual conference for the first time I was rebooked to speak at next year’s ICPA annual conference;
2 – Launched the Successful Practice Pack weekly online support for accountants in practice;
3 – Being ranked as one of the top 3 online influencers in the accountancy profession for the 2nd year running;
4 – Hitting two milestones re my practice focused column on AccountingWeb: Over 200 published articles and well over one million views.
 
2016: Objectives:
To be even more careful with the settings on my emails to avoid you getting too many, too often and/or those that are simply not appropriate for you!
 
Beyond that:
1 – Fill my mentoring programme for 1-2-1 support of ambitious professionals and executives;
2 – Secure the remaining bookings I need to hit the target (agreed with my mastermind group) for full fee paid speaking engagements where I can entertain, enlighten and inspire audiences of professional advisers;
3 – Increase the number of accountant subscribers to my Successful Practice Pack to 500. If you’d be willing to pass on details to your accountant or to an accountant you know – please let me know.
4 – Secure at least 5 consultancy, workshop and speaking gigs to help businesses focused on securing business or referrals from accountants.
 
THANK YOU!
If you’ve read down to the end of this blog post I hope you feel it was worthwhile. Should you feel inspired to send me a personal message re anything in this blog post I promise that I will read it and respond personally. This is what I’ve done with all of the kind messages received in response to the emails summarised above. If you’re interested I’ll also send you the links for the free downloads that were included in email 2 😉
 
In the meantime I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a healthy, happy, prosperous and non-too taxing New Year.


 

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