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Member Article

Sailing through your accounts

Paul Ainsworth of Ainsworth & Co, Chartered Accountants, Intuit ProAdvisor & RYA Senior Dinghy and Keelboat Instructor, charts the next ’record keeping passage plan’ for sailing professionals.

Online accounting and business record keeping is revolutionising the way accountants work and interact with their clients. It is now possible to access accounting records in real-time, in the office, at home, on holiday or on the move, wherever there is internet access or a mobile signal. Whether it is email, paying bills, catching up with the news or checking directions, it’s clear that the ‘cloud’ is substantially changing business practices.

Professional sailors particularly could reap enormous benefits from online, or ‘cloud-based’ accounting. Expenses and accounts can be updated quickly and simply whether using smartphones, tablets or laptops, and whether on the water, or in the comfort of a wifi café when in port. When questions arise, their accountant can easily log on and check.

The ‘cloud’ is a general term for any computing process which uses the internet almost exclusively. The key advantages of cloud software are that the software is always up to date, and no update processes are required; back up is constant; access from most computers, tablets and smartphones (the latter sometimes via apps); instant data share; and spreading licence costs.

Yet despite the potential, there is still a reluctance to use the cloud by both my fellow accountants and their clients. In a survey of accountants by Intuit, 37% of those surveyed have clients currently using the cloud, and they expect this figure to rise to 92% by 2015 – so the future is set fair for cloud-based processes. Many of us have experienced a PC dying with no backup. Using online accounting software, such as QuickBooks Online, data is always saved, and technical failures have far less impact.

In our technology driven world, it is no longer a luxury to be constantly connected to each other and accountants should be no different. Being able to login, check, correct or update a client’s accounts in real time, wherever they are in the world, will soon be the benchmark for customer service. Ultimately it saves time and money and ensures any amendments can done immediately.

For sailing professionals, often working long and irregular hours, the cloud offers an unparalleled opportunity to communicate with prospective customers to take bookings, send invoices and check payments received. Recording purchases and expenses, making payments is simple, including taking images of bills, all in multi-currency. It is a natural follow-on that the whole accounting processes is completed during a passage or in port, rather than at home where it consumes valuable maintenance time, or, worse still, weeks or months later when memories have faded, paperwork is scattered, and tax deadlines are looming.

QuickBooks Online offers an excellent and easy to understand record keeping and accounting process. With online systems, the accountant’s role is changing from making the traditional end of year evaluation to being able to offer a supporting role during the accounting period, keeping records and reporting up to date.

The cloud revolution opens up an interesting question for business people when choosing an accountant: “Do I choose an accountant based on my location, or, an accountant who understands my line of business?” Surely the latter is advisable. With the cloud, it is no longer necessary to choose an accountant who is geographically convenient, rather choose one that understands the specifics of the industry you are working in.

Less than half of accountants have crossed the start line, even fewer have rounded the windward mark. Is this also time for a change of tack for professional sailors?

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Intuit .

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