Online service for accounting
COVID-19 has not disappeared anywhere in the world, but its effects on working life have gradually diluted. For Digibalance companies, the period of a few years has been very revolutionary and it actually normalized what we had already built years before the corona: an online service for accounting clients, remote meetings, location-independent working. The impact of the pandemic on the visibility of our operations was clear: the rush in the customer process and development projects rose to such a level that our active social media presence withered to almost non-existence. At the same time, especially micro-entrepreneurs, in their own cost pressure, found us more and more often.
As the demand exceeded the delivery capacity, we have had to evaluate our operations from new perspectives. At the beginning of this year, we made a decision that differed from the preparations that had been made for a longer time: we will not bond with venture capitalists. The decision was based on many choices related to values, meaningfulness of work and entrepreneurship in general, but as with all choices, this has both positive and negative sides.
As a long-term entrepreneur, I always see it healthier to run a business where losses do not rise to a significant level. Without large financial buffers, this is also a situation dictated by necessity, and it is clear that it has the effect of slowing down development. The management’s time and energy is spent on ensuring various practical matters, while in a hypothetical position of “never-ending cash”, this energy could be allocated to doing the so-called right things.
The above-mentioned setup can be seen now as an emphasis on profitability alongside a focus on growth. When there is no need to impress the financiers, i.e. to grow at any cost, we have been able to analyze customer profitability and invest in personnel. In practice, for the first time in my entrepreneurial career, I have been driving almost as much customers away than acting as a salesperson. The experience has been partly heart-wrenching for the entrepreneur, but on the other hand, it has also opened my eyes in a new way to the well-being of employees.
The problems of customer profitability in our operations seem to rise mainly from two subjects: 1. a low solvency of client entrepreneurs compared to the need for services 2. additional stress for personnel caused by customer behavior problems.
Solvency problems are easier to understand from these two. When the entrepreneur’s own business has experienced difficulties due to the pandemic, he/she has started looking for more efficient and more affordable solutions. At the same time, however, it is easy to forget that the purchased service model differs from the previous one. Regular coffee breaks, stacks of papers and calls to your own accountant are not part of the basic service of an online accounting office. Instead the service models are made for a different world. There is certainly still a place for old-fashioned services, but Digibalance companies do not produce such services. We have consistently built affordable digital online bookkeeping services for micro and small entrepreneurs. We combine needed expertise and the ease of use of DigibalanceApp application or online browser service. Almost without exception, a new client for us gradually adapts the new operating model, even if they have been working with their accountant in a different way for years. Effortless and affordable. That’s our unbeatable AutoAccount service combination, but I also feel that it is important to distinguish from “doing bookkeeping is now easy for you” type campaigns that unnecessarily raise the threshold of entrepreneurship. The majority of entrepreneurs would not like to participate in bookkeeping at all, and we emphasize that the applications are only part of our effortless service process for the customer. In AutoAccount sales, the most challenging thing is often to get the entrepreneur to understand how small is the required customer contribution for us to collect the necessary data to produce the books. And the accounting is done by AutoAccount on behalf of the customer.
When analyzing customer profitability, the most surprising thing to me was the fundamental behavior problems in a large customer base, which stress our employees. The phenomenon is the same as what you could read about in the media during the pandemic, for example in supermarkets: various very outrageous insults directed at employees increased when the shouters were able to hide behind a mask. Psychologically, it’s a very interesting topic, which is certainly related to many reasons from difficult times to upbringing and inequality. In practice, remote and online service create the same illusion as a face mask: the feeling that I, as a customer, can communicate however inappropriately. The same phenomenon is well known from social media discussions. On a practical level, it has been quite surprising to have to intervene in individual situations where the customer’s communication to accounting or even to an individual accountant is constantly rude and disrespectful. In some cases, it has been a question of the customer’s inherently aggressive way of communicating. In other cases, there is a misunderstanding where the accountant is seen as an enemy who always does things wrong, whether there was a factual reason for it or not. The customer may have been quite surprised when I brought up such a problem, and often the cooperation has continued in a more positive spirit after that. However, there are individual cases where we have not wanted to continue the service ourselves. It’s good to remember that behind all automation there are important people who make our effortless services possible!
We have had to increase minimally the reimbursements of software suppliers’ increasing customer-specific costs. However, our fight against inflation and price increases continues, and we will not raise our own monthly service charges for the time being!
The silence has ended and you will hear about our activities again through numerous electronic and social media channels in the future. Feel free to comment, share or like our updates😊
Published by Linked on 23/09/2022
Author Mikko Ilves is an entrepreneur and the Chairman of the Board of Digibalance companies.