Accountants and bookkeepers alike were surprised earlier this month when QuickBooks announced it now offers “Live Bookkeeping” with all plans ranging from Simple Start to Advanced. The page promised: “Get valuable insights from unlimited one-on-one conversations with an experienced bookkeeper that knows your business.” Of course, this made QuickBooks Certified Pros across the country do a double-take and say, “Hold up—what?!”
It would seem that the folks at Intuit are planning on entering the bookkeeping game in addition to providing one of the leading accounting software programs to bookkeepers and accountants, many of whom have unlocked the next level of accounting by becoming QuickBooks ProAdvisors. That’s not a free or simple certification to obtain, leading people to question Intuit’s motives behind such a move.
However, the info in the screenshot above no longer exists on QuickBooks’ pricing page—at least, not for us. This leads us and others to believe it was more of a marketing or audience test than a confirmed move into the bookkeeping space. Still, it probably points to QuickBooks eventually offering bookkeeping services, and one internet sleuth has unearthed a job posting that fits with the described service.
But before anyone goes all Chicken Little and starts proclaiming the end of the (bookkeeping) world as we know it, we thought we’d help provide context and maybe identify some next steps for those who could be impacted by this new service.
Who is this bookkeeping service available to and when?
We have no idea when it might be officially unrolled, but right now it’s unavailable to the general public. But as we mentioned above, the test is a pretty clear indication that it’s coming. And when it does, the price point—ranging from $210 to $260 per month—is pretty approachable for startups and small businesses, so that may very well be the target audience. Then again, if and when QuickBooks does unroll this service, they might tie different pricing to it based on their preliminary research and testing.
Why would Intuit launch its own bookkeeping service?
QuickBooks has been a leader in providing a reliable, cost-effective solution for businesses for decades, and now it seems that they’re trying to address a problem that many have discovered the hard way: even with QuickBooks, bookkeeping isn’t easy, especially if you’re new to it. A few years ago, TD Bank surveyed more than 500 small business owners about what they love and hate about owning a business, and nearly half said they hated bookkeeping. That’s no surprise since bookkeeping is tedious, manual, time-consuming, and prone to costly errors. That’s one of the lessons Botkeeper CEO Enrico Palmerino discovered when he ran a previous startup—it almost tanked because of bad bookkeeping, so he eventually started Botkeeper. Unless you have a background in accounting, you probably don’t know how to best manage your books, and that could be costing you money.
In a recent town hall-style meeting hosted by Woodard, Rich Preece, Senior Vice President and U.S. Country Manager at QuickBooks, goes a step farther to explain why they’re testing bundled bookkeeping services: “This is Intuit recognizing that small businesses have a need for support but, because they are not prepared to engage a professional bookkeeper, require a different, lighter touch way to address that need,” Preece said. “In concert, this is Intuit’s way to engage ProAdvisors—to bridge the talent pool of the professional bookkeeping community to this underserved small business demographic.” He explains that through lots of customer feedback, QuickBooks realized that 40% of small businesses who use their services are not supported by an accounting professional.
Regardless, we don’t take this move as a threat to accountants, and here’s why.
- According to Preece, Intuit will protect existing relationships between clients and accounting professionals by not marketing to those where a known relationship exists. Of course, this is a tall order, but Preece says they’re willing to work with the community to maintain that promise.
- Despite its listed price points (which are fairly low), QuickBooks will likely not set the tone for bookkeeping pricing with this service because they will list it as a distinguishably different level of service from what a professional accountant or bookkeeper in their directory would provide.
- Bookkeepers who provide support for the QBO Live program will be in a “pool” of sorts and will probably have no recurring contact with any one client. Therefore, the value you bring as a dedicated bookkeeper will be greater—and worthy of a higher price point—than what QuickBooks will provide. However, from the sounds of it, they’re still trying to figure out exactly how to communicate that to new and existing customers.
- Intuit maintains a directory of around 50,000 certified ProAdvisors with whom they match businesses looking for bookkeeping and accounting help. It’s doubtful that QuickBooks would want to betray that huge network of paying customers by offering competing services that might undermine their individual business offerings. And after Preece was finished with the town hall, Woodard polled the audience on how they view this new service offering impacting their businesses, with around half indicating concern:
That’s not to say there is no concern—we just don’t know enough yet to get too worked up.
As a result, here’s what you can do if you’re an accountant:
- Prepare for this. It’s possible that because Intuit is doing this, so will others like Xero.
- Embrace the change, because now you have an option for where to send clients who can’t afford your services. This is a good value add, and you can still remain one of their vendors (perhaps you can still sell them tax prep services or offer strategic financial planning).
Get ready to team up. Preece said they’ll look to the Certified ProAdvisors network to help fill the need for “on-call” bookkeepers, and it would most likely mean you wouldn’t have to do any marketing or selling to get new clients—that’s a win for many accountants and bookkeepers.
Keep doing what you’re doing. Especially if you’re a senior-level accountant, continue to build your practice around high-quality, advanced services that can’t be provided by gig-based bookkeepers. Intuit has claimed that this new service would simply create an option for those who have no accounting support, and they’ll still rely on the Find a ProAdvisor directory for matching businesses with high-need clients.
Many accountants at Botkeeper have been talking about what this means for accountants and customers, in particular since our bots and humans work so closely with QuickBooks, automating manual data entry with 99.97% accuracy, providing custom reporting, invoicing, bill pay, payroll, and more. The consensus is that while Intuit dropped the ball when it came to giving its loyal customer base a heads-up on this test—therefore creating more drama and speculation than needed—this service will help you bring greater value to your clients. Likely, it will raise the standard for accounting firms: you’re more than just bookkeeping, and you should be able to focus on highlighting that.
One effective way to distinguish yourself is to keep looking for ways to scale your business efficiently and without sacrificing your personal life. Find automations and take advantage of the human-robot connection provided by botkeeper—your clients will have expert service provided by automated bots and senior-level accountants ready to review your books at all times, and you’ll cut your bookkeeping time and spend in half.