QuickBooks Online consultant Debbi Allison goes beyond the numbers to help clients

Getting your books in order through QuickBooks Online helps businesses carry out the cliché of getting their ducks in a row with some basic know-how of the program. Debbi Allison of Open Book Consulting offers consulting services on the accounting software package by Intuit.

By Shelley Widhalm

Debbi Allison of Loveland likes helping businesses understand their finances and going beyond just doing their books.

Allison, owner of Open Book Consulting in Loveland, consults small business owners as a ProAdvisor for QuickBooks Online, an accounting software package offered by Intuit. She likes to bring in their visions and passions as they grow their businesses by consulting, coaching, advising, training and meeting with them up to twice a month.

“A consultant is someone who asks the right questions that helps the client find the answers organically,” Allison said. “My goal is to enable my clients to be able to find the answers by understanding the resources.”

The Role of a Consultant

As a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Allison understands the principles of bookkeeping and accounting, and as a consultant, she helps businesses apply the numbers to make better decisions and more efficiently run their businesses. She comes in as a teacher not only explaining how to use the software and set up their books but why the processes they use can help improve operations and profit margins. She helps them identify the steps they need to take to align their monthly and yearly numbers to reach their business goals.

Consultants, as well as coaches, provide mentoring and teaching, but consultants ask questions to guide the client toward their goals, while coaches hold the client accountable for following through with those goals. Allison asks process questions about how much of a role her clients want to have in bookkeeping and passion questions, or why they went into the business and are motivated to do the work. She challenges them to push their comfort zones and expand how they are doing business with the aim toward growth.

“What consultants are really leveraging is their experience and using their knowledge built out of that experience to build your business in the smartest way possible,” Allison said.

Making Suggestions

Allison suggests learning materials and business books to help business owners think about their processes and ways they can grow their businesses, such as “The E Myth,” by Michael E. Gerber, and “Profit First,” by Mike Michalowicz. She also gives priority exercises to keep their business decisions in line with their morals and ethics—she has five priorities that include God, her husband, her family, her friends and work. So if a potential client, for instance, asks her to advise them on the Desktop version of QuickBooks, she knows doing so does not align with her work priority.

“It doesn’t fit in my wheelhouse, or my set of skills. I can do it, but I no longer specialize in it,” Allison said.

Allison helps businesses grow in other ways, such as by measuring the results of their success, or lack thereof, through analytics of their numbers. If their gross profit margins are not where they should be, she can evaluate their books and give direction. For instance, businesses may not price their product based on cost, quality and value, but instead on competitor prices and lose money as a result.

“The objectivity from a third party makes a big difference, because we see things that you may not see for yourself,” Allison said.

Bringing in Knowledge and Experience

Allison, who holds an associate’s degree in accounting, brings to her consulting 20 years of experience working with small businesses. She started her career as a bookkeeper in 1999 and in 2011, launched Allison Bookkeeping, LLC, changing the business name in June 2016 to Open Book Consulting to better represent what she offers. That year, she became advanced certified in QuickBooks Online after being standard certified in the desktop version since 2012.

“Everybody is passionate about their business, but not everybody is passionate about doing business,” Allison said. “There’s more to doing business than just the business itself. … I want the kind of client that will throw themselves into it with passion to make this work. They’re on a mission.”

Allison looks for honesty in the way clients do business and wants them to be honest with her. She also wants the client to be willing to learn the basics of QuickBooks Online to be involved in some aspect of the accounting, such as using receipt bank to input their daily receipts or doing part of their books.

“I want to empower people with knowledge and to be engaged in the process to be successful,” Allison said.

The Next Class

Allison teaches a fee-based QuickBooks Online course through the Larimer Small Business Development Center in Fort Collins on a quarterly basis. The next class will be 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Aug. 7, 14 and 21 at the Digital Workshop Center, 234 Remington St., in Fort Collins. She also will be teaching the same class 1-5 p.m. Oct. 16, 23 and 30 at the same location.

“I encourage people to take the class first and then come to me for one-on-one training for more advanced or specialized features depending on what their business needs,” Allison said.

Shelley Widhalm is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Shell’s Ink Services, a writing and editing service based in Loveland, Colo. She has more than 15 years of experience in communications and holds a master of arts degree in English from Colorado State University. She can be reached at shellsinkservices.com or swidhalm@shellsinkservices.com.

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