I have been a bookkeeper for quite a few years now and it is always sad when you have to say goodbye to a client. As a bookkeeper I am trusted with confidential financial information and often become the first port of call for running through new ideas or sharing business issues. Every business owner goes through ups and downs with their business and if you are the one who has to take responsibility and make decisions it helps to share your thoughts with someone who is not an employee but has a good understanding of your business. You may not be looking for advice but it is surprising how just talking out loud to someone you trust helps everything become clearer. It can help you to think through the consequences or highlight something you hadn’t thought of.
Being a business owner can be lonely but having a trustworthy bookkeeper who you see regularly and who can see the financial ups and downs of your business can be far more helpful than you would imagine.
That’s why it is sad to say goodbye to clients. As their bookkeeper we have been part of their business, often helped them get their finances organised, seen the business grow, supported them when cash flow was tight, made recommendations for cost savings, just listened when they needed someone to talk to and answered every telephone or email query. Some may have become friends but those that haven’t are still an important part of our working life.
There are many reasons to say goodbye to a client. Often it is because the business has outgrown the service we provide. We know they need someone to provide bookkeeping support much more frequently in order to support their continued growth but it is still hard to suggest that they need someone else and not us. Of course we are delighted for their growth but it is sad that we will no longer be part of that business. We support them in that transition and will help them recruit a bookkeeper who will suit their needs – after all we have worked with them for some time so we have a good idea what those needs are. And often we remain in the background for so they have support when they need it.
Sometimes we find a client will leave us because they want to save money. Maybe the business is struggling or they have found someone who appears cheaper. With online accounts software making it possible for anyone to do bookkeeping paying for the value a bookkeeper can add to a business is seen as unimportant by some business owners. Until, of course, its time for the accountant to do the annual accounts and they find its all a bit of mess and they have to charge more in order to sort it out. Whilst a bookkeeper might be an expense that can be saved consideration should be given to a potential increase in accountancy fees. That is a sad goodbye for us because we know that the business owner will find it difficult to find time to keep their accounts up to date and may well miss a VAT deadline. They also may not have regular and useful management accounts to understand the progress of their business.
We have found clients leave us because we insist on having a VAT invoice or receipt for transactions before we will claim VAT on them. Or because we want to check that transactions are “wholly and exclusively for business”. They think that it is the accountant’s job to decide what should go through their business but unless it is pointed out to them the accountant may not be able to identify individual transactions which are questionable. Accountants are also unlikely to check whether there are VAT invoices as it is the bookkeeper’s role to file the VAT returns. We have seen an increase in VAT inquiries this year – HMRC VAT Inspectors asking for a copy of the detailed VAT report and then choosing the invoices from that report that they want to see. It is therefore important to ensure that we can produce VAT invoices for VAT claims and explain any transactions that they question. Sadly these business owners think that by moving to another bookkeeper they won’t have to produce receipts or answer questions on their expenses and maybe they will find one but sooner or later they will come unstuck.
The saddest of all, though, are those who have decided not to continue their business. There are numerous reasons for these decisions but it is sad to know we will not be able to continue working with them.
Sometimes, though, it’s a relief to say goodbye. The increasingly demanding client that you keep meaning to have a word with. That client who makes your heart sink when they ring. That client who is just plain rude. Relationships can change and even after working with a business for 20 years it was time to move on when it was no longer enjoyable. Life is short and whilst it is sad to say goodbye sometimes it is a positive.
We do have some lovely clients who are a pleasure to work with. When I started my business 14 years ago one of my aims was to only work with “nice” clients and having my own business meant I could choose who I worked with. That has been really important for the growth of my business and the satisfaction of providing a service which business owners value. Our clients have businesses in very different sectors which provides my team and I with variety and constant challenges. It is rewarding and we know that we are appreciated for the service we offer. And if we are happy working with the clients we have we know we will be give them the best service we can.