Being a bookkeeper is more than just managing the ledgers for your clients–you are a trusted part of your clients’ business operations. Knowing what questions to ask new bookkeeping clients is critical. And once established, you must regularly meet with your clients. This makes sure that you are aware of what’s going on in the organization and if changes are coming soon that impact your work.
Why regularly meeting with your clients is important
You may wonder why meeting with your clients is crucial, or your clients may even wonder if it’s worth the billable hours. The fact is, meeting with your bookkeeping clients from the first day you begin working with them is critical for the health of your working relationship long-term. While there are a variety of reasons why it’s so important to meet regularly to stay aligned, we think there are three big reasons:
1. Ask questions of bookkeeping clients and learn of changes coming to the business
Have you ever had a client make a change to their tech stack, product offerings, or overall strategy without telling you yet expecting you to reconcile the budget? If you have, you’ve lived the number one reason why a regular meeting cadence is essential. Getting out in front of changes not only helps you have a smoother workflow, but it may help your clients make better decisions or consider your input if it’s within your area of expertise.
(Pro tip: Be sure to set yourself up as a partner during any changes to your clients’ business.)
2. Your relationship with your bookkeeping clients will be deeper
Having a stronger rapport with the businesses you support helps you understand their needs and challenges and enables you to recognize when something may be amiss in their records. And, if your clients consider your expertise as they make decisions, it also helps develop your relationship more profound than just a transactional back-and-forth partnership. Consider this: if you found a spike in a specific type of expense or income to your clients, do you know where to go or what to do? Or, conversely, if there were missing records, do you feel comfortable reaching out to find out what is going on? If not, you’ll benefit from a deeper relationship with your clients supported through a regular cadence of meetings.
(Pro tip: Asking questions to new bookkeeping clients starts the relationship. Be sure to start a new engagement with a meeting!)
3. You’re both up-to-date and have aligned expectations
This third point is critical around tax time when you’re spread thin and working more hours than normal. If you’ve had regular meetings with your clients up to this point, it’s a lot easier to know when their deadlines are, and your regular check-ins probably helped keep their books in better shape–meaning you’re more organized come tax filing day. This also works for your clients too. Since they’ve met with you and aligned on deadlines, they know they can trust you to deliver even if you go radio silent on phone calls and emails for a few weeks.
So, now that you know why to meet, here’s how to ensure maximum results. Let’s break meetings into three phases: before, during, and after the meeting.
Before the Meeting:
Before the meeting, be sure you’re aligned with your client on where and when you’ll meet. How long will you meet? If you meet in person or online, what system will you use? Who will set up the meeting link? If you’re working with virtual clients, be sure to confirm what time zone you’re meeting in and ensure that your calendar is blocked!
Once you’ve confirmed meeting logistics, it’s time to set your plan. Depending on the relationship you have with your client, you may set the agenda. Or, they may have a list of items to discuss with you as well. Regardless of who owns the agenda items, here are some questions to ask bookkeeping clients we recommend always having in your meetings:
- What has changed since we last met?
- What upcoming initiatives will impact cashflows or accounting data?
- When should we meet again?
As you progress from the basic questions you ask your new bookkeeping clients to a long-standing partnership, the questions you put on the agenda will change. Be sure to consider the uniqueness of your clients and their businesses when building your agenda. A standardized template is an excellent place to start, but asking the same questions each time is a recipe for a bad meeting and a soured bookkeeping client relationship.
Pro tip: be sure you share the agenda before the meeting and get buy-in from your attendees. That way, no one is surprised, and your appointment will be more efficient!
During the Meeting:
Now that you’ve agreed on where to meet and what to talk about, it’s time to do it! During the meeting, be sure to take notes and consider a recording and transcription tool to help you make records of the conversation so you can stay present in the meeting rather than scribbling items furiously.
Make sure you cover all topics on the agenda and leave time for open-ended discussion. Sometimes the most crucial meeting topics are covered two minutes before a meeting adjourns, rather than the planned discussion points!
Before you adjourn the meeting, make sure you run through the list of action items you’ve noted and agree on who will do each. This is a crucial step–otherwise, you may forget who is supposed to do what.
After the meeting:
Remember those action items you aligned on before ending the meeting? Now is the time to do them! And it’s not just completing your tasks–it’s also reporting back once they are complete. Some action items may require a quick email with confirmation they are done. For others, it may necessitate a follow-up meeting or check-in. Forgetting to do this step can damage the trust that your meeting set out to create.
Once your work from the last meeting is done, it’s time to set your next meeting. Make sure this is part of your post-meeting workflow–otherwise, you may find that your appointments fall off your radar and don’t happen.
With these steps, you’re ready to book regular meetings with your bookkeeping clients to maximize productivity, deepen relationships, and streamline your work.
Want to streamline your workflows further? Setup Bankfeeds to automatically connect your clients’ Shopify and Stripe accounts into Xero.