Bookkeeping sucks. The only people who like it, are bookkeepers. Not many business owners are doing cartwheels at month-end over the prospect of consolidating a month’s worth of financials. Vancouver’s Bench still doesn’t make bookkeeping fun, but at least they’re making the process better. Having processed over $160 million in bookkeeping transactions for small businesses across North America, and growing at 30% month over month since July is testament to that.
Bench is combining software with in-house accountants to make bookkeeping much less painful. According to co-founder Jordan Menashy, “early in the client discovery process, we saw most of the technology space fixated on doing what was already done, and just trying to do it better. It seemed like other people were building software solutions to make the process of doing bookkeeping more efficient, more pleasant even if that’s possible.”
The Bench team put a different lens on the process. Menashy says “when we looked at it from the end users perspective, the small business owner and put ourselves in those shoes, we realized that software wasn’t what we were really interested in. It was really the idea that we would not have to deal with bookkeeping at all. The idea being that the process of bookkeeping should no longer be a distraction. It’s about letting the small business owner focus on their everyday core responsibilities.”
No two ways about it, Bench is a service. It’s extensively powered by talented people behind the web interface. As Menashy puts it, “we use technology, and we use design as a competitive advantage in the way we deliver the solution. This translates into a service that’s much more efficient, and a much better user experience. We’re concentrating on updating the process of working with the bookkeeper to fit with business owners current behaviour as it relates to technology. There’s no reason to lug around a receipt when you can snap a photo of it with your smartphone. There’s also no reason to meet the bookkeeper in person when all of these communications can take place over the phone, and via the web.”
Bench is focused on the needs of the small business, characterizing many of their clients as generally under 10 people, with revenue under $2.5 million. If you’re in the professional services space such as consultants, freelancers, agencies, even lawyers, doctors, and dentists, or who they’d describe as boutique online and offline retail clients, Bench could be a good fit.
This not about automating an entire process either. Accountability matters. The tax man still demands the signatures of real people. For Menashy “the ultimate responsibility we take on is ensuring the data our clients provide is being turned into tax ready documents. We want to see our clients working with tax accountants, and having confidence when filing their business taxes. It’s about delivering an audit proof record trail.”
Looking forward in terms of product development, he says the team is, “building out a whole mobile suite of solutions to compliment what we have today. We’re also working towards native apps for both iOS and Android. We see a lot of our client interactions belonging in the mobile space.”
With tax season bearing down on us Menashy offers up some sound advice, “get a tax accountant. If you can’t get one, and by early February the odds of getting one is unlikely, get an extension on filing. Filing your taxes is expensive (between $100-$200/hr). The easiest way to reduce your costs is to give your accountant well organized and up to date books, that’s where Bench comes in.
Bench is removing the friction between the bookkeeper and the business. It’s more of a communication platform than an application for manipulating numbers around various columns and rows. It’s also a nice prospect of no longer taking that pizza or shoe-box full of receipts to someones office, while still getting a real human powered business experience.