You hear it all the time.
As technology improves, more human operated jobs are becoming obsolete.
What about bookkeeping?
Will software or a robot be the end to your business?
According to Louie Prosperi, the CEO of the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada (IPBC), there is definitely hope, but you have to adjust with the times.
His organization helps hundreds of bookkeepers nationwide learn cutting edge skills, meet new people and prepare for future trends that will allow their businesses to grow.
In this informative interview, you’ll learn...
Why you should communicate your value in this age of automation by providing more services, including consulting, that best suit your client's needs
The importance of keeping up with technology to better serve your customers and make sure software is properly monitored and running smoothly
Why it's crucial to document what services you provide onsite so you can charge them accordingly through value pricing or an hourly rate
And how being a part of the IPBC can help you be ready for the future through its various useful resources, meetings and annual member conference
To find out more about Louie, you can visit any of the below:
Michael Palmer: 00:58 Welcome back to the Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I'm your host, Michael Palmer, and today you are in for a treat. Our guest is extremely familiar with the bookkeeping industry, has insight or knowledge, has been cultivated over 21 years worth of experience providing many facets of bookkeeping, accounting, and consulting to his clients. Today he is the chief executive officer of Canada's top bookkeeping membership community, the Institute of professional bookkeepers of Canada, which is a nonprofit institute. Louie. It is our pleasure to welcome you to the successful bookkeeper podcast.
Louie Prosperi: 01:35 Well, thank you, Michael. It's a, it's, it's an honor to be here and I look forward to ours, our discussion.
MP: 01:40 Yeah, absolutely. Now, Louie, you and I have sat down in the past and we've talked extensively about a bookkeeping and the industry and that's why I really wanted to have you on the call because I really see some of your ideas and what you see for the future of bookkeeping to be, I think on the cutting edge. And I think, uh, as we've seen the IPBC, the Institute of professional bookkeepers here in Canada really grow and, and progress. I think it's due to your, your leadership. So, uh, that's why I wanted to have you on and get some of your information, but a lot of the people listening won't know you. And this is a worldwide podcast. We have listeners in Australia, we have listeners in, in Canada, United States, the UK. And so we want to sort of emphasize too that this is, you know, what's going on in Canada is also happening around the world. And you've got relationships with associations in the UK, and I know you're growing ones, uh, as well in the, in the United States. And so this conversation about associations and what you're saying for the listener really is clickable, so think of, so for the listener that you're listening, think of your own association and your local community or in your local country, but you don't know Louis. So I'd like to hear a little bit from you, Louis, about your career and what your journey has been to getting with the IPBC.
LP: 03:01 Okay, Michael. Well, I graduated from York University with a, a business with men in accounting. I then worked for CCA firms or chartered accounting firms. And then from there I went into industry and started to work for private companies as a senior executive, uh, helping them with their growth or expansion issues. At which point I decided that I'd like to rather go from that perspective, that to be a consultant. And I started my own bookkeeping accounting practice providing consultations. And my focus has always been on a business development side, helping organizations with their strategic planning, building their organizations from a small to medium size, helping them with contraction or expansion issues as well as troubleshooting issues that might occur, uh, both financially as well as structurally. So that's where my background has been. A lot of the companies that I been involved with it, I've always had some challenges that they've had to work out of.
LP: 04:05 And that has been the most fun part of, of working as a consultant. I then was looking for an organization to depart myself with and the IPPC was a perfect fit. I became a member, I think back in 2009 their attitude and, and the mission was to basically be a voice for the professional bookkeeper, have a designation that is recognized and that's national and it's focused on the professional bookkeeper's experience levels and then also suited me fine. Because in this industry, the majority of uh, professional bookkeepers tend to acquire their knowledge and expertise through experience. And the IPBC was a great mechanism for that. So as I got more involved in and understood them, uh, it sort of grew into being an advisor on the board and then helping them grow and get them to where they are today. But it's been a team effort. We've had an excellent board of directors throughout the, the life of the organization, uh, great people in staff. And then the volunteers, because it's been a, a grassroots organization, it's been really pushed and developed by the professional bookkeepers themselves wanting to, to have something that that's theirs. So it's been a really great ride.
MP: 05:30 Yeah, absolutely. And, and you know, I've, I started working, uh, with the IP DCM envelope belonging as a somewhat as a partner member back in 2013 and it's just incredible the amount of growth and the feedback that we hear from our members about the value that they're getting out of it. Um, so thanks for, for sharing that and get, I think it gives everyone a, a good background as to who you are and where you're coming from. And I think there are some key things you said just about how you help companies that I think, I think it's going to be interesting for our conversation. Sure. So you know, since you've been involved with, uh, the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada, you know, what have you seen happen with the members that have belonged to that organization?
LP: 06:19 Well, it's interesting. Uh, it's not just the one thing, the number one thing that our members seem to be taking away that they really, really enjoy is, is the fact that they have a designation that they're proud of. The, the certified professional designation that we have. The CPB basically reflects a professional level of, of experience and knowledge. And, and a lot of our members, once they've attained it, feel very proud of themselves. And it's, it's, it's a great way to differentiate themselves in the community as well as because IPPC is, is a constant voice and a thought leader. We're always out there promoting the profession and the professional bookkeeper, it kind of goes hand in hand. So that's one of the things that our membership when people join, they join because they want that recognition personal as well as business. And also the, the ability to differentiate themselves and saying that, you know, we've, we are at a certain level of professionalism and the organization that supports though has to be at a high level.
LP: 07:24 So the combination works very well. The second part that we hear all the time is the community-based feeling that they're, they don't feel they're alone because professional bookkeepers, we don't, they're on an island for the most part, right. When they develop their business with practices, allowing them to have an organization that they can rely on, talk to, uh, develop local as well as national relationships, helps them to expand and feel more of a, a bigger community. And the third part is what we offer is as membership benefits such as errors and emissions and for example, value pricing programs and educational content. We'd have a ton of webinars that go out every month. So all of that as a, as a whole provides a lot of benefits to our, our members that they wouldn't be able to get if they weren't part of the organization.
LP: 08:22 The, the one that stands out for me, they're in, I mean there's tons of values as you've, as you've mentioned, the one that really stand out is not doing it alone. Feeling like they belong to something. I think it won't be just bookkeepers that have that problem. It's any entrepreneur or any business owner that's trying to do it all by themselves really limits their ability to be successful. And so, what I think is great about the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers is you've done a really good job of communicating with the members and as well having uh, outreach that helps people get together because you could have an association that is an association in principle, but you know, do they meet, do people actually build relationships? I mean, I know some of our members, period with pure bookkeeping, they, they go to IPBC, they meet people and they've been, you know, they go every year to the conference and it's like there have been friends for life and their cross country.
MP: 09:15 So I've got one member, she's very, you know, met through IPBC, someone who's way up in the northwest territories and they're great friends. They talk all the time and it really builds that belonging and feeling, uh, and I think gives, gives people confidence too, to know that they, if they need help, they know where to go and get it. So you've got outreach programs like the, the, the monthly meetups right across the country in different communities. You have the webinars that I think are really valuable and as well the national conference. So tell me a little bit about the national conference because it's, it's, how many years have you been doing it now?
LP: 09:52 This is our fifth year, uh, for our, our bookkeeping conference. So that this year, every year when we first started, it was one of those field of dreams moments, right? Build it. They will come. We, we, we didn't, we didn't know what kind of reaction we would get in the first year. And it was a, it was a resounding success. Uh, we had our partners sponsors came in and supported us and our membership at that time wasn't as large as we are now. And yet we had a very good turnout. So the way we structure our, our conferences, Michael is, is geared to the professional bookkeeper and providing them with services led knowledge and information that they need to build their practices. It's not just technical, it's, it's more on soft skills like marketing as well as technical, but as well as software and technology. Because nowadays a professional bookkeeper needs to have a well-rounded background in all different areas.
LP: 10:53 We call it business savvy. If you look at our ignite program, we, this year we've done something very different. We actually labeled it in four different categories and that's basically what we provide every year, which is business savvy sessions, which is basically designed for, for how to improve your business. Tapping technology. Technology now is an integral part of any professionals toolbox. I would say software tax and then the ability to go and see all of their vendors, uh, professional vendors in one location allows them to have that face to face component. And the other thing that I'd like to mention, Michael, given with the new technology now we interact, there's less and less opportunity for face to face meetings and interactions as you're aware of probably a lot of your transactions or meetings now are probably what we're doing now, podcast or so forth. So conferences now are one of the last best use that people go to and still have that face to face interaction with their, with the experts and speakers and uh, the providers. It's, it's a unique event that I think really helps a business owner reconnect building their practice.
MP: 12:05 Yeah, for sure. It's our third year of sponsoring a, we were going to be there. And it's great to connect with everyone. But you know, is that a concert recently where one of the advertisements for that conference venue was just imagined streaming this experience and you know, you get, it's like, yeah, if I was listening to a CD at home, you know, I'm not sitting there live with the people in front of me that the, the people that are sitting next to me, the, the things that are going on in the audience, it's a totally different experience. So you could, you could stream a conference like an ignite that you're having this year, but it wouldn't be the same experience. You're not gonna meet the same people. You're not gonna feel that that energy, and for me, conferences are so important. And I am a very big proponent of going to conferences because it's one of the pillars that we talk about building a successful bookkeeping business.
MP: 12:58 And quite frankly, being as and successful in anything in life is that you have to invest in yourself. And so I remember when I was just a brand new coach and there was the international coach federation and they were having their conference in much rail and it was a, you know, it was going to be a lot of money for me to attend it. And I had no idea what was going to, who is going to be there. I didn't know any really, any other coaches. So I just thought, you know what, I need to go and check this out. And I went to that conference and there was so much value for me as a coach and learning about what other coaches were doing and the technology that they were using and the different, uh, formats that they were working in and all these different breakout sessions and educational opportunities.
MP: 13:43 But the number one thing that I got out of it was that I really saw how what I was doing was a profession and that I wasn't the only one. There were people all over the world doing it and I made great connections with people. So now with all of the bookkeepers that we work with and entrepreneurs that I work with, I say you need to invest the time, you need to invest the money and you do need to do it often. And so that's why we've been a big supporter of your conference and every year it gets better and we encourage all of our members to participate because we see that that is such a valuable component of being successful in business.
LP: 14:21 I agree. I think the, the interaction, the live streaming is important. I think that provides flexibility and access to information that if you don't have the time or the resources to see everything, it gives you an option to experience. But I do agree that you should invest a portion of your time at a live event or live events as might as many as possible. Like our meetup groups right across the country when we are able to find volunteers and develop those, it allows you to interact with your local community. But our national conference allows you to interact with everybody in Canada. So you get to meet your professional colleagues that are not just in like your, your town or your profits. They're right across the country. So you'll, you'll meet people in British Columbia, just like you said, that we have people from the northwest territories coming to our conference. So that exposure is important and you don't get that interaction on a, either a live stream or a local one. So it all integrates. I agree.
MP: 15:30 That's right. And, and quite frankly, not everybody can do everything. It's really gotta be wise in your investments, uh, as a business owner. So, but it's one of those ones that, uh, we, we have really promote and you know, if you can't get there, obviously consume the information and meet locally, uh, is the way to go because it's those human connections that really make the biggest difference. Yeah. So, go ahead.
LP: 15:54 I just want to promote one more thing about our conference is that we, we try to make sure that we're accessible. So every year we go from one site to the other. This year, we're at Richmond, next year we'll be in Ontario. So it allows the costs, even if you can't make it every year, we'd like you to be there every year. But if you can't, it's in an area where it's much more closer to you and cost-wise.
MP: 16:17 Absolutely. Which is, uh, which is nice that you've been doing that.
MP: 16:28 so let's talk a little bit about how you've been running this event for the last five years and so five years is a long time. And I want to talk about changes that you've seen in the industry around bookkeeping. And you started to allude to it a little bit around the technology. What do you see happening and where do you see this industry going?
LP: 16:48 Well, it's, it's a, it's a train both technology. There's innovation, uh, and their software. The technology is kind of a big one. It's impacting all parts of our lives. It's not just impacting us, it's impacting our customers and how we communicate with them. So early on we realized that the automation process of, of a lot of our services or what we call input services is, is happening through technology. Meaning that the, the data entry services or the services that relate to two aid putting at one time, uh, required a higher skill set because it was more manually driven right now with the automation. And a lot of that stuff is being automated. So the, the, the role of a, of the professional bookkeeper now is to make sure that the technology batches the customer's needs and make sure that the automation works effectively improperly. Because if it's not being done effectively, the information that we will then rely on it, the other end isn't going to be proper.
LP: 17:54 So there's a lot of things now, even though that the actual manual component is being diminished, the role and responsibility levels are actually higher for the professional bookkeeper. And it's a, it's really important for them to stay abreast of all of that. So that's something that we've noticed and uh, their role is becoming more critical. Uh, the other thing that we've also noticed is the customer's needs are more about real-time about, uh, looking for services that help them make decisions for today and tomorrow. And not as concerned about the historical or the, what we call the rear window services. You know, they are important with regard to find tax returns and be compliant. But the software now is providing a lot of that, the development of those, that information. So when we call it more of an advisory and compliance and, and basically, uh, audit, not approved but, uh, an audit trail, uh, making sure that it's correct is where we're, a lot of the services are going.
MP: 18:59 Yeah, for sure. And, and you know, if you asked your average owner of a, of a business, you know, what is your bookkeeper? Do you know, they're going to, their first glance maybe that, you know, they're just there to data entry and we know that, that so much, so much more to that. And you know, there, there's going to be a struggle of people start to think that, you know, this can all be automated. You know, that's a big risk. That's a, that's a perception that bookkeepers need to be aware of and need to communicate and position themselves in a light that makes sure that business owners still see and, and bring out the value of what it is that they're actually doing. So I know you have a lot of experience with that because a lot of the work that you've, you've done in the past has been a consulting angle to helping businesses figure out where they need to go and helping them get there more quickly, into and securely. So what would, what advice would you give to bookkeepers to be able to deal with that challenge?
LP: 20:00 That's a, that's an interesting question because from early on, almost five years ago, we, we noticed one of the things that I promote and that I feel is the value proposition business model doesn't tie into the input costs. Being that our traditional billing model is based on an hourly timesheet rate, which one when the input components of our, of our services were easily trackable. Now that they're being automated, the value proposition is the same or even greater, but how to quantify it and how to possibly explain that to the, to the consumer or customer has changed. So one of the things I would recommend is for every professional bookkeeper to look at redoing their business model and looking at a value pricing model which now focuses on outcomes. It focuses on business transformations and services that relate to what the business owner is expecting from you. In addition to that, you, the process that I would focus on is the value conversation component. Having these very important conversations with your customer to help you understand what they want. And then when you do a pricing option model, which is where I would always go, is it allows you to better suit and have a higher customer satisfaction. Because if the, I don't know, it's hard for us to do it here today. Mike Glenn in a, in a 10-minute video.
MP: 21:36 No, absolutely. I think I agree Louie, we want to point them to this conversation and we're also having, Ron Baker is scheduled to be on the podcast in the future. So we're excited about that. And I know you've done a really great job of bringing that conversation of value to the industry, which is, you know, we, we echo that here because you know it, people don't pay you for what you do. They pay you for what you do for them. It's those outcomes. We need to think about what are the outcomes that are important to a business owner and speak in though and that language and figure out where are they trying to get to and how are you a value to them getting there. So it's not just in this industry, it's in every single industry. Whether you're, you're, you're selling airplanes or you're selling bookkeeping, you got to make sure that people understand what value you're providing to them and how you differentiate yourself from others.
MP: 22:30 So it's a great conversation and I really, you know, for those of the people that are listening, I'm sure Louie, if they go and we will have a link to the, to your website, your community website and I'm sure you've got a lot of information about that, so we'll certainly send that over. So it's great that we've pointed them towards this value conversation. But let's, you know I liked that conversation of being an advisor, right? Because we do, I mean I bump into bookkeepers that are, are thinking, still thinking around that, well let's just do the file. I'm going to go in, I'm going to get everything organized and get out. They don't build a relationship with the owner. They don't really understand exactly what the business is all about it from a, from a high level, how can bookkeepers start to position themselves as an asset to the business owner?
LP: 23:18 That's interesting. I kind of have a different look at it because of the way they price the model. Like they, they bill them by the hour and they go in and they sit there and they do the data entry or whatever they will do. The funny thing is they're already doing it by z services while they're there, they just don't realize it or they don't. It's kind of thrown in like they could be there and the business owner would come up to them and ask them a series of questions that I'm maybe processes or inventory or, or collections and they're providing the value there. Right? So I, I do think that they are providing advisory services is just being vaulting for the most part. Now if you are just doing the input components, uh, then you will have a problem because that side of the, of the market now the pressures for value is, is lower and the, the market's going to drive the pricing of that down.
LP: 24:19 But the advisory component, which is usually already incorporated, I don't know how many times I hear about bookkeepers that, that their offices and they're not just doing that, they're talking to them, they're providing them with that consulting. The key for for me is that what I would recommend to every professional bookkeeper is when they go on-site, just start listing what they do on a piece of paper and find out and they look at it and find out which ones are input related stuff that they're doing and which stuff is actually more of an advisory or providing them with consulting. And then once you can assess that, then maybe you can look at how you can package it differently.
MP: 24:57 Right. Nice. I like that
LP: 24:59 because I don't know how many conversations I have with bookkeepers and then when I started asking them particularly questions of what they're doing and there are things, there are nuggets when they're there that they're actually providing advisory. So the top end professionals are already doing it that just unfortunately that their billing model isn't structured to properly reflect that.
MP: 25:20 Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
MP: 25:30 so Louie, this year you've talked about doing your conference, the, the theme is Ignite, you know, let's talk a little bit about Ignite. What does it mean to ignite at your conference?
LP: 25:45 Yeah. We, we want it to properly reflect what happens at our, at our conferences. You know, we've had ignite as a perfect word for that because when people come to our conferences, we know that when they leave, they're, they're the spark in up to build their business or to ignite it or take it to the next level is there, we, we always hear that they're, they have a hundred ideas when they leave us and they, they just can't wait to start and build that. And we've heard that over and over again. So that's what our conferences that are designed, they're designed for you to come in, learn key things that will help you build your business in the direction that you wanted to go. And there'll be something for every professional out there. And, and the interesting thing is professional bookkeepers, when we say professional bookkeepers, people say that in your mind, you think it is a bookie.
LP: 26:42 People professional do both. Bookkeeping and accounting, I mean accounting is, they're interchangeable as certain levels of certain things that accountants do, but there is accounting work that bookkeepers do, right? Professionals do so. So the reality is that that we have at our conference a lot of that information that's not just useful to the professional bookkeeper, but it's also useful to the professional account as well. And it will ignite your business. It will make you look at how to build your business in different ways or software that will fit your business model or a customer or technologies that you're thinking about how you can talk to, so that's why we've called it ignite. It's, it's posed to ignite and it does ignite your, your practice.
MP: 27:27 Absolutely. I love, I love the theme this year and it's, I'm looking forward to it. So we're, we're just about to complete on our time, Louie. So I want to, I want to ask you for your best couple of words of wisdom or advice. It can be a little bit, it can be a lot. What other advice can you give to the bookkeepers that are listening on this podcast and they want to be successful in their business? What would you tell them?
LP: 27:52 Well, that's a good one. I'm going to go from a biased perspective, Michael. So please do. I think that, uh, one of the key things about, about our industry is, is to have our industry recognized as a profession. And one of the ways for us to do that is to band together and, and, and uh, support the IPPC and become certified. Being a designated person allows the customer to know what level you're at. And an organization like ours, which is always focused on making sure that our exams and our code of ethics and all of that hit the top level expectations for professional is what bookkeepers should be striving for. Uh, so on that side, on the professional side, looking for designations and, and getting certified in the areas that you want to be a, an expert I think is very important. And the other thing that I would focus on is personal growth or personal business growth, which in today's environment means you have to constantly look at, we value your business and always work on your business as much as you can rather than just working in your business.
MP: 29:04 Fantastic. We Echo everything that you've said, Louie. And I know I've said it already, but your, your conference is top-notch. If bookkeepers that are listening, you know if this, if you're listening to it in the future and a future date, find out when there is a conference happening for the, if you're in Canada, the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada, we're going to have a link to your website where they can find out more information as well, where they can find out more information about just going out there and meeting with some other IPBC members and, and getting started right away. Cause I know you have a lot of opportunities for that. And if you're listening from another country and you don't belong to an association, find out where the one where one is close to you. And if you're in the northern part or anywhere in the United States, I'm sure Louie, you'd welcome anyone from North America or anywhere in the world to come and join you at an IPBC Ignite. And so Louie, on behalf of all of our listeners out there, I want to thank you for, for being a guest on the show.
LP: 29:59 Michael was a pleasure and I really enjoyed our conversation, so thank you for very much for having us.
MP: 30:45 Absolutely. And Louie, I hope you'll come back again because I know, uh, things are changing fast in the industry and we want to keep up to date and have you bring back some of your thoughts and insights of, of what's going on in the industry.
LP: 31:00 My pleasure. Thanks, Michael.
MP: 31:07 You Bet. So, everyone, you can find the show notes at Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com and we'd love your honest feedback. Please go to the successful bookkeeper.com forward slash reviews. It'll give you instructions on how you can leave a review on iTunes and a rating. I let us know how we're doing as well. We'd like to hear from you, let us know what questions, what challenges you're having. You can go to the successful bookkeeper.com forward slash questions and you can record a question right there and we can hopefully use that in the show in the future. Thank you so much for listening and until we see you again or hear you or listen to you or be with you again, I always get that mixed up because we will see you until we catch you again.