Cheryl-Lynn Schaefer is the founder of Now Bookkeeping services in British Columbia, Canada serving clients for over 20 years.
How did you get starting in bookkeeping?
Schaefer: I’ve been in accounting and bookkeeping for 20 years. When I went to university, I went in with regards to business, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and I ended up being a personal trainer, which has nothing to do with accounting.
I was in a car accident, so I ended up falling back into accounting and starting my own business after I had a child. I’ve worked in pretty much every department of the bookkeeping and accounting world; I’ve done payroll in many different countries. I’ve worked in mining and construction.
When I had my child, I realized that it was not for me to be tied to a desk and tied to my phone 24 hours a day. So I decided to branch out on my own as a traditional bookkeeper. I did desktop software, I did a lot of Sage 50, and it worked well for me at the time. But I noticed that technology was starting to creep up, and there were these fantastic and intuitive ways of doing bookkeeping, where you didn’t have to go to somebody’s job site and sit there for four hours and do their bookkeeping every month. So I started to look into migrating some of these clients to the cloud, which would have been back in 2017.
Have you noticed any significant changes from COVID-19?
Schaefer: The pandemic has not affected me; if anything, it’s made me busier. That’s also because I haven’t taken on new restaurants or tourist-type businesses. I have had a couple of closed businesses, of course, during our shutdown, but now they’re back up and running, and they’re going strong.
I received the sage innovator award in 2020 because of the steps I’ve made to make my business seamless and cloud-based. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Clients come to me and say I’m on desktop software and I don’t want to leave, and I say I’m sorry, I’m not the right bookkeeper for you.
That’s okay – I’m comfortable saying that to people because there are bookkeepers out there who still like their desktop software. There’s a place for all of us in this bookkeeping world. My spot is in the cloud, and their spot is in front of a desk, in their office, or their clients’ office.
How is the landscape changing for modern bookkeepers?
Schaefer: I meet with other bookkeepers all the time. Some get their back up when I go and talk to them – they think I’m trying to compete against them. I believe there’s room in the bookkeeping world for everyone. For the 80-year-old bookkeeper who’s been doing their 15 sets of books for the last 40 years, there’s a place for them, and there’s a place for me who is adopting to change and wanting to embrace technology. There is a place for the young up-and-coming bookkeeper, who perhaps wants to be that unicorn who wants to try everything, go for it. There’s a place for everyone.
What are the main benefits you see from your tech stack?
Schaefer: My clients don’t have to put together a big bundle of receipts and drive them to my house or take them to their office and I don’t have to go there and get them So there is that time savings on both sides.
For us, it’s substantial time savings, and that we can take on more clients. So when you have a tool that’s pulling all the information, sorting everything by date, making things nice and simple for you to review, that’s basically like an additional person that you’ve hired to help you with your business.
How do you find the right clients?
Schaefer: I typically have a set of questions that I asked every single client, and my first question always is, do you prefer desktop software? Or cloud software? That’s always the number one question if they say, I prefer desktop, and I say well, I do have the option of migrating you.
And if they choose not to do that, I can offer you names of some other bookkeepers that can help you. I don’t take any offense at all.
The other things are, do they like to have daily updates on their books? Do they like to be able to have 24/7 access to their books? Or do they care? Do they want monthly reporting? Are they a sole proprietor? Are they a corporation? Do they have lots of shareholders? All these things are important because I have to see where it fits in my schedule.
Fiscal year-end is another one; if you have a December 31 year-end, no, I’m not interested. But that’s just because this year, I have many clients with December 31 year ends, which doesn’t mean that they might not be a good fit for me next year, but not this year. I only take on what works for me because I’m not in a position to take the work. I like that, I am not complaining.
Who wants to take work because I have to know I pick and choose my clients. Payroll is a huge thing because payroll is a beast that some people overlook. They think that payroll is just this part of bookkeeping, and it’s no big deal. Payroll is a big deal. I believe that it’s super undervalued.
So I’m very, very picky with my clients.
Where do you see the future of accounting going?
Schaefer: I think that a lot of the desktop software, they’re going to stop supporting it. That’s just a guess. I’m just looking at the amount that they’re investing in cloud software, and just with the pandemic, I see more and more people going up into the cloud.
From a bookkeeping standpoint, more and more of us are working from home, more and more of us are going to want to support all of our clients through the cloud. So I just cannot see them supporting desktop software in, say, ten years. But you never know something strange might happen, but honestly, I cannot see it happening. It’s so expensive for bookkeepers to have desktop software and put that cost on to their clients for $15 a day. $20 you can have cloud software that you can access from your phone like people are starting to realize how portable their books can be. They’re going to learn that there are so much simpler platforms for them unless you’re a manufacturer or some sort of inventory type business.
What’s next for your firm?
Schaefer: We’re hoping to hire more staff to take on more clients. I am a bit of a micromanager. Of course, as a bookkeeper and accountant, I like to have my fingers in all my files, and I only have ten fingers. So I can only grow so big. So if I was to hazard a guess I would say I would hire between one and two more people and have potentially another 20 or 30 bookkeeping clients. It depends on the size, of course, but that would be the ultimate goal.