By Chenine Humphrey, CPB DFA
I love reading business books and do so on a regular basis. But every once in a while I like to throw in an easy-reading non-business novel. By chance I picked up a copy of “The Eighty Dollar Champion” and dove into the pages about a famous horse from the 1950’s. That horse was on a truck destined for the slaughter house and was saved, at the last minute, to go on to inspire a nation in the international horse show jumping world. This true story focused on the fate of the horse industry during the first half of the 20th century when the combustion engine was invented, which slowly replaced the horse and the horse industry. Tractors replaced plow horses, cars replaced horse and carriage and eventually horses were no longer needed to carry soldiers into battle. A vital industry was all but wiped out in just a few short decades along with all the infrastructure that surrounded the use of horses for farming, transportation and war.
The unfortunate side-effect of this disruption was millions of horses lost their lives because they were no longer useful. Only a lucky few endured to live on as companion/sport horses to fulfill an emotional purpose – creating a new perception of what a horse was useful for. During these days, while horses were slowly being phased out and automobiles phased in, horses were often tasked with ‘bailing out’ automobiles. Pulling them when they were stuck, in need of repair, or fuel was too expensive to purchase. Slowly, in time, the automobile became more and more reliable and the horse, that had dependably stepped in to help this new technology, was ultimately sent to the slaughterhouse when their usefulness was gone.
Today, I see bookkeepers symbolizing the horse industry. Traditionally bookkeepers have been tasked with the collection and record-keeping of businesses financial welfare by manually processing data which is time consuming and labour intensive. However, today’s bookkeepers have been slowly tasked with adopting to new technology systems to help with the processing of the traditional methods of record-keeping with the goal of being faster and more efficient. These new ‘systems’ have tended to be unreliable, get stuck or become too expensive to use. And, just like the horses did with the automobiles in the mid 1900’s, bookkeepers have been pulling along the technology and working through the issues when it fails and figuring out better ways to make the bookkeeping tasks more and more efficient. Slowly phasing out the manual data processing tasks that have been relied upon for generations. In time, the technology will fully take over the traditional bookkeeper and the bookkeeping industry will forever be changed.
What can we learn from previous industry disruptions of the past? How can we look far enough into the future to both embrace new technologies to help guide it to it’s fullest potential, but also endure by stepping aside to look at new possibilities to take advantage of the technology? To ultimately avoid being loaded onto the slaughterhouse truck to an ultimate demise if the signs are not paid attention to. How can we start identifying a new way of doing business by going beyond typical bookkeeping tasks to now provide that emotional support to our clients? To help our clients solve problems that technology cannot.
One way is to connect with industry experts who share ideas and knowledge and support out-of-the-box thinking. Creating ways to help business owners run their companies in new innovative ways. Seeking out a path that is a new level of usefulness and not allow yourself to be disrupted.
The Bookkeeper Connection Network™ not only embraces new ways at looking at avoiding disruption, but also opportunities to take advantage of disruption. Connecting with like-minded industry professionals to go beyond the traditional bookkeeper and ultimately be the automobile in bookkeeping automation.