Ethics in Bookkeeping: Is the Market Saturated with Sub-Par Bookkeepers?Aug 22, 2022
Hi, friends! Today we’re going to be talking about integrity in bookkeeping—what it is, why it’s important, and why It’s one of the things I'm constantly gut-checking. I am always asking myself, “How do I deliver the most high-quality product with a transformation I can stand behind, as well as ethics and integrity I can stand behind?” I want to always be representing myself, my business, and the mission that I'm trying to live out in my life. And I want to make sure my students are doing this, too. So let’s talk about all the things I tell my students to prioritize in terms of ethics in bookkeeping.
Transparency About Your Knowledge and Skills
There are a lot of areas in life where you can “fake it ‘til you make it.” Bookkeeping is not one of them. I cannot stress this enough—always, always, always be forthright about your knowledge and skill level. This is priority #1 for ethics in bookkeeping. There is nothing wrong with admitting you’re not sure about something and seeking guidance.
One of the questions that I ask in my Life by the Books (or LIBBY) application is it is extremely important to me that LIBBY students put ethics in bookkeeping at the top; that they go out into the world and serve their clients with integrity. Explain your limitations. Ask questions and seek proper guidance. This does not mean you must know all things now—it’s okay if you come across things that make you feel out of your depth. This just means that you will be responsible with the services you provide and be willing to research answers and say, “I do not know, but I will look it up or connect you with someone who knows the answer.”
My program LIBBY comes with direct support, meaning one-to-one Voxer access to me so that members can feel comfortable asking for technical guidance when they're outside of their depth. When they are coming into a brand-new thing they haven't experienced yet, chances are I'm gonna be able to walk them through the new thing, walk them through disengaging the client, or walk them through the things that they should know or the conversations they could have to where they get that problem solved correctly so that they're not floundering and making mistakes for their clients. For me, part of ethics in bookkeeping is ensuring my students have all the support they need to provide top-notch services.
Willingness to Advocate
What does it mean to be willing to advocate for your bookkeeping clients, and what does it have to do with ethics in bookkeeping? Part of prioritizing ethics in bookkeeping is by advocating for your clients to make the best choice for them, even if that means turning down additional income on your part. For instance, if your client tries to expand your role to include tax management…
The Tax Issue
When it comes to overstepping our roles as bookkeepers and crossing into tax issues, I educate on the basics of the tax issue and repeatedly emphasize the importance of our clients working with reputable tax preparers and deferring tax matters to tax experts. This is a huge part of ethics in bookkeeping; you cannot ethically handle tax matters. The reason for that is that tax is complex. If you think taxes are simple, you don't know enough about taxes. If you think taxes are easy to add on, you should not be doing taxes. Taxes are extremely complex and constantly changing. If you understand the depth of that, and how challenging taxes are, you are the person who should be doing taxes, but someone who thinks it’s easy clearly doesn’t understand it well enough to handle it.
How I Coach Ethics in Bookkeeping
My reason for coaching and mentoring was never about really making money, because I already had that through my bookkeeping business. My reason for starting to coach and mentor and educate bookkeepers, accountants, and aspiring bookkeepers to prioritize ethics in bookkeeping was that I could see how valuable it was. How needed it was. I get way more leads than I can take on. I push away a lot of business, and I always have, so I knew if I really wanted to help these entrepreneurs—and believe me, I did, and I still do—then I needed to help grow an army of people offering services that put ethics in bookkeeping at the top.
At the end of the day, my bookkeeping business is still my favorite side of things, and the reason that I'm successful with it is attributable to a few things. But mostly, it’s because I'm very good at what I do: knowledgeable mentoring and educating of bookkeepers about ethics in bookkeeping. To me, isn't about making a buck, but about sharing my niche expertise to create more successful, ethical, integrity-driven bookkeepers who truly help their clients.
New bookkeepers might be popping up everywhere, but those who can't do their job well won't succeed. Those who don’t make ethics in bookkeeping a key part of their services won’t last. And if we, as reputable bookkeepers, know that our industry is susceptible to a less-talented group of individuals, it's our competitive edge to be the obvious choice based on our integrity and our commitment to ethics in bookkeeping.
Doing right by our clients is going to be the number one thing. Even if you sign a client or ten or twenty, if you're doing a bad job, then you're building a business on quicksand and you're hurting people in the process. That is not what this is all about for me. This is about learning the skill, however long it takes for you to do that, and growing a business in integrity, having the access and support that you need to do that right.
No Matter How Saturated the Market, There is ALWAYS a Need for Reputable Bookkeepers
If you think that your industry is being saturated with sub-par bookkeepers, then it only means that you are more needed than ever. If you’re reading this and you want to prioritize ethics in bookkeeping but you feel you lack the proper experience or you’re questioning your ability, you can learn the skill. You absolutely can learn the skill. This is simple and repeatable and something that you can learn even without experience, but it is important to learn to do it well and to make sure you have the proper guidance.
For my part as a coach, this is how I've structured my programs because this industry is important to me. I'm a CPA with experience. I have a bookkeeping business that people aspire to have. I do a good job. I talk to tax preparers. I help my clients understand stuff. I charge enough. I hire a team. I'm profitable. I'm part-time. I'm doing it, and I want you to be able to do that too. Both of my programs—Become a Bookkeeper, which teaches the skill, and Life by the Books, which helps you grow your business—are both so intentionally designed and so thoughtfully created, I stand behind them fully. So in this world of saturated markets and programs churning out sub-par bookkeepers, this is what sets us apart. You can learn it, but if you're looking for a place to learn it and learn it well, read this blog. Listen to the Profits + Prosecco podcast and the testimonials on it. Go to the sales page and look at Become a Bookkeeper. Hear what I'm saying about what you should focus on and what you should avoid and learn those basic skills, then join Life by the Books, where you'll be able to learn how to get clients and grow your business and have support in your back pocket.
Ethics in bookkeeping is so important, and so many people don’t prioritize them. The market may be “saturated,” but this only means that ethical and knowledgeable bookkeepers will stand out from the crowd even more. Don’t let the idea of oversaturation scare you off—let it bolster your resolve to be the best out there!
If you're looking for more tips for bookkeeping, insight on how to become a bookkeeper, and how to say hello to a more confident business model, enroll in Become A Bookkeeper (BABs).
Or to learn more about growing your bookkeeping business and hiring a team, enroll in Life By The Books™ (Libby).
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