I have said it before and I will say it again: everything has the meaning we give it. So put simply, FUTURE PROOFING means taking action to ensure you're still around in the future. As I like to say, the world never stops spinning, and so your business needs to keep evolving.
Nothing is static. So when things change in our industry (and the easiest example is automation or AI), we need to CHANGE.
We actually need to change just a tiny, tiny little bit every day. Business is actually no different to life. There's a great saying that applies to both business and nature, and that is, adapt or die. Simple, clear, and direct – and it is a law we must all abide by. In business or in life, when we are faced with change (which might be scary or uncomfortable), then we kind of hit a fork in the road, right?
Victim or victor, accept or deny, adapt or die, the CHOICE is entirely yours.
The most business iconic story that illustrates this is the Kodak story, which you may have heard of before. Kodak was founded in the late 1880s. They became a giant in the photography industry in the 1970s, and filed for bankruptcy in 2012. So for almost 100 years, Kodak owned film and photo space. However, in the late 1980s, analog started its decline and digital started its incline, which, of course, continued like most things (like automation and AI). Despite the fact that it had been an Eastman Kodak engineer who built the very first ever digital camera in 1975, Kodak actually refused to adapt. They believed that it wasn't necessary. Come 1991, they finally released a digital camera, but it was too late, and they filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
And sadly, there are many Kodak stories. Border Books is another, right? Around for 100 years. I remember going to Border Books and they refused to adapt. They refused to start gathering a database of their loyal customers and eventually, they died. They just kept saying, no, we are just going to do it the way we always have.
Well, nothing is static. The world is always turning. We need to continually adapt.
And if you've heard of agile management style, a lot of corporates have been taking it up in order to future proof. Because corporates tend to move really slow and just not agile enough, they realised that it was a real threat. These smaller enterprises were more agile and were able to make decisions faster, and it was leaving the corporates open to really losing market share. So in order to adapt, to future proof, they all started to adopt this agile management style.
But that aside, let's look at what future proofing looks like for a bookkeeper –
it's adopting and adapting to stay relevant and to thrive.
Over the last decade or so, we've seen the rise of cloud computing. First came automation, and then AI, and now robotics are here. The other thing that changed was also the globalisation of our workforce. I started working in that space a long time ago, and if you are willing to accept the law of adapt or die, then you can actually enjoy this changing landscape.
You can help more clients.
You can thrive like never before, and actually have more fun.
The key to adapting to automation, AI, robotics, and workforce globalisation is MOVING AWAY from traditional bookkeeping services. Not stopping them all together, just moving, adapting away from them, and more and more into strategic bookkeeping, which is covered off in the succession chapter of my book. I am so, so passionate about the power of SUCCESSION services for bookkeepers. Keep in mind that basic bookkeeping is the ideal start – in fact, up-to-date, accurate accounting records are globally recognised as pillar one for the success of any business. They're a great start, but that alone doesn't really move the needle. It's what we do next.
Now, we also need to adapt in terms of our MARKETING. I'm an adopter rather than adapter – meaning I live by the law of adapt or die, and I adopt what's new early by doing my research and taking things up slowly, in a way that suits me and in a way that doesn't mean I have to leave my values at the door. Adopting early rather than trying to adapt late, like Kodak did, means that we have that beautiful thing called time, and it means that when we are earlier to market, we have the COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE.
In terms of this marketing landscape, which could be summarised as how you ATTRACT and ENGAGE prospective clients in a way that they are going to make a decision to get in touch and maybe do business with you... we've all seen the massive change since the pandemic, right?
Prior to the pandemic, lots of people were resisting how connected the world is, which meant the pace of change was kind of steady. So I was like, ah, I love how connected everyone is. I just wish people all over Australia would work with me without feeling like they needed me to be in the same suburb.
And so while all of that was happening steadily,
the pandemic propelled people into a place where they actually had
to adapt to working REMOTELY and DIGITALLY.
So it's like, whether you like it or not, suddenly you're doing it. Human behaviour changed rapidly. Everything changed faster. Humans quickly got used to working 100% online – using tools to book appointments and communicate online, work with suppliers and make purchases nationally and globally rather than locally. Nothing was open. People were literally locked down. In Australia, it was nowhere near as bad as it was overseas. But, I know that all over the world, people were just locked in their homes and suddenly they had to go online, right?
Now, what that means for us as bookkeepers is that prospective clients are far less likely to call us or even send us a contact form than they were before, okay? A prospective client wants to get to know, like, and trust you now online 24/7 in their own time, more than ever.
Prospective clients are still actually asking exactly the same questions, but they are not asking them directly.
Your prospective clients, your market, they're still scratching their heads and they're asking the same questions, but they're asking themselves and they expect to be able to get their answers online in your BRAND SPHERE – a topic which I elaborate more in my book.
Now, these prospective clients, they expect to be able to book appointment with you online. And even though this has been happening slowly over time, as I said before, the pandemic meant that all these behaviors changed more rapidly. And in the bookkeeping industry, it wasn't that common to go and book online. People want to be able to book in with you online, even if that's just a consultation, right? So now this is great, but it's also challenging, because our industry as a whole wasn't ready for this shift to fast-forward like it did. I certainly wasn't ready and I'm still adapting, and I'm usually at the front of the pack here, but behaviour has changed really fast. So I am adopting and I am adapting, and I'm researching so much, and I have learnt and I've continued to go down that rabbit hole researching, and I have come up with a plan, and it does make sense to me now. And actually, I'm excited!
And to me, that's what future proofing can be. It can be exciting.
And so to wrap up the two things that we covered today: the first thing is that you really do need to consider whether you're going to accept that you do always need to future proof. Every business needs to. As I said, in nature, it is the same in business and life – we're just always constantly needing to adapt to survive and to thrive. So that is the first thing – to accept that principle. And secondly, what does future proofing look like for bookkeepers? Well, very similar to any other business –
we need to be tuned in to what's happening in our industry, all those changes.
And the things that are happening, we need to ADAPT to them.
Just for example, accountants are doing a lot more bookkeeping now. They never used to, but there's always new things, right? But they're kind of for that. If you haven't completely accepted adapting to them and you're still resisting, I really want you to just think that through. We have covered that off, and the way to future proof and to adapt is to move into strategic bookkeeping. You're already doing bookkeeping, which I also call numbers 101, where you prepare the numbers. Strategic bookkeeping is more around what you do with those prepared numbers, okay? So that'd be investigating the numbers, solving more problems, and just making sure that you don't become redundant. And, ultimately, you really need to look at the marketing landscape now more than ever.
The key takeaway here is that people want to do everything online, so much more now than ever before. Your market is still asking the same questions, but they're not asking them directly, yeah? They're looking to get their questions answered online in your brand sphere. Now, I want to talk action. So first of all, if you haven't already read my book or you're not using it as a how-to guide, I would really, really highly recommend that. As mentioned, the succession chapter is around those strategic bookkeeping services, but the whole book's going to be really helpful with this. And continue to tune into my podcast, because I'm all about future proofing, and I'll continue to help you with every episode.
Most importantly, do hop on to the waitlist of The Strategic Bookkeeper Transformation Program. In there, hand on my heart, I will fast track your transformation from bookkeeper to strategic bookkeeper. Just make a commitment to accept that future proofing is necessary, not to be frightened of, and not to think that you have to leave your values and your ethics at the door when you future proof.