Whether you’re getting started in business for the first time, or maybe it’s just time for a new bookkeeper, here are six key things to look for at the first meeting.
In every industry, there are the experts, and there are the cowboys. Bookkeeping is no different.
The problem for business owners is that if your bookkeeper is a cowboy, you could end up in hot water with the law.
I find that because the world that bookkeepers live in is full of deadlines, acronyms and confusing legislation; business owners just trust what they are told. They don’t always question the things they’re told by their bookkeeper, as the alternative would result in them diving headfirst into a world of spreadsheets and legislation that they don’t want to be in or are not qualified to be in.
So what is it that you, the business owner, can do to make sure your bookkeeper is the expert your business needs?
Here are a few pointers to show you what you need in a good bookkeeper. Make sure your bookkeeper makes the grade in each of these areas.
From 2010 onwards, a legislative change meant that to be qualified to deal with BAS-related items (including coding in data files), you had to be a registered BAS agent.
To become registered, your bookkeeper has to have a minimum of a Certificate IV in Finance. They also have to have at least 1200 hours of experience working under another BAS agent’s direction.
To maintain BAS agent status, bookkeepers must prove continued training and ongoing education. Your bookkeeper should also be a member of one of the Professional Associations like the ICB or ABN, adhering to a strict code of ethics.
Sometimes the difference between success and failure for the way a bookkeeper engaged with your business will come down to how they communicate. This can be somewhat subjective, but ultimately you need someone who understands their stuff but can also talk your language.
Bookkeepers also need to be transparent when they don’t have all the answers, so you as the business owner can feel trust in the advice they do provide.
This is particularly important in the area of employing staff. Our practice is aligned with a national HR company. We ensure that if our clients need any advice related to staffing and human resources, we go to the experts in that field for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
More and more, bookkeepers are aligning themselves with only one type of software.
There’s a variety of reasons why this might be. It might just be their personal preference. Or they might be getting perks to recommend that software. Then they tell their prospective clients that they must use that particular software.
But you shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into using one type of software or another according to what your bookkeeper at the time is using most.
Instead, if you’re being asked to consider changing your software, make sure this advice is being articulated in terms of upsides for your business in terms of efficiencies, time gained, or cut costs.
You’ve heard of ‘the cloud’ — it’s where most modern software platforms now exist, but it wasn’t long ago that the idea terrified people.
For many bookkeepers, concerns around privacy and security of data stored in cloud-based platforms are legitimate. These concerns exist and continue to be managed with new advances like two-factor authentication.
A future-focused bookkeeper will be aware of the concerns and be mindful of what can be done to moderate the risks involved for your business.
I had a client come to me some years ago who had just left a bookkeeper because they were too nervous about migrating her data file into the cloud. After we helped her make the step, the bookkeeping time had been cut by more than half! The client was ecstatic because no more filling or paper is shuffling when you use online accounting software, and she just needed someone to help her get it done right.
The worst thing you can do as a business owner is select your bookkeeper based on their price.
Some bookkeepers charge quite a bit less than their competitors. You may be tempted to go with them because the hourly cost-saving is worth the risk… but is it?
The bookkeeper you need is someone that’s priced right for the job. They’re there to add value to your business, not just clock in the hours.
The immediate answer here is trust. Your bookkeeper could be the only other person that intimately knows your business’s financials from day today.
You want someone who is going to ‘have your back. If they see a transaction on your credit card that doesn’t seem quite right, you would like to know. If they see that one of your staff has purchased a soft drink or cigarettes on the fuel receipt, you would want to know.
You want to know that they know how your business ticks. They can look at your Profit and Loss Statement and know if something isn’t quite right. They will talk to you, ask you questions and push you for details – because they care.
They aren’t a machine that churns through information without thinking about you. They are as much a part of your business as you let them.
Find yourself a fantastic bookkeeper. Let them into your world and trust them as they are there to help you, and you will never have to worry about your books again.
In a small business, you need to wear many hats, particularly in the startup phase. But trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for disaster, not success. Hiring a bookkeeper will take the pressure down.
I’ve been running startups now since I was 19.
From motorcycle dealerships, IT businesses and my accounting practice (I’m in my late 40s now, but I’ll keep my exact age a little secret), I’ve spent many years trying to be everything to everyone.
Working on my startups and advising others has made me realise that you have to take a step back and delegate or risk moving into the burn-out phase at some point as a business owner.
One of the easiest things to delegate is your business’s financial management, and bookkeepers play a massive part in helping small business owners achieve this.
To make the process even more accessible, the following is a list of the five most important things you can do for yourself and your business before, during, and after engaging a bookkeeper’s services.
If you had the entrepreneurial urge and went into business to be the master of your destiny, then be your own master.
To paraphrase Michael E. Gerber’s E-Myth, if you’re making pies, then focus on making the best, fair-dinkum pies ever so that you sell out every single day. Keep your focus narrow.
Similarly, define what you love to do and then find people who love what you do.
The proverb of teaching a man to fish still holds.
Understanding what your numbers mean and how they’re derived is vital to running any business. But it doesn’t mean you have to do that work.
This is where a good bookkeeper comes in. Bookkeepers can help you understand, design and implement systems and assist in maintaining those systems.
Bookkeepers are no longer the little old lady in the corner entering data; they are so much more!
Ultimately, you didn’t go into business to do bookkeeping, so delegate it to the experts.
If you have paper floating around the office, it will create extra work, time and cost for you to manage this. So the easy answer is to get rid of it.
Storing data electronically, including copies of invoices and receipts, is the way forward. Doing so will not only keep your accountant and the tax folk happy, but it will also give you peace of mind that the information is stored safely and can be accessed at any time.
I can remember going through an audit myself and having it all resolved in five hours simply because the information was instantly accessible.
There are tools available in the marketplace like MYOB’s Capture App to help with this (a good bookkeeper will help you set it up if you get stuck) and create the systems to manage it seamlessly.
This one’s a biggy. And it ties back to focusing on what you are good at – if you aren’t an accountant, then don’t try to be one. Leave tax to the experts.
A bookkeeper will help get all of the relevant information systemised and help you liaise with your accountant for year-end tax time. Still, they can also take care of things like quarterly BAS (Business Activity Statements) and payroll obligations as you grow.
Bookkeepers that are Registered BAS Agents (that means they’re licensed by the Tax Practitioners Board and approved by the Australian Taxation Office) can advise you on all GST-related matters. This is super useful in allocating things that can be claimed.
If this isn’t done right, small business owners will often be leaving claimable GST credits on the table, and, as a startup, cash flow is ever essential. Some businesses I’ve worked with have left thousands of dollars unclaimed for this very reason.
It’s 2020. It’s the digital age. There are apps for everything now. So it’s high time everyone gets with it!
One of the primary outcomes modern technology has brought small business is time and cost savings. And all this gets back to the cash flow, right?
Who doesn’t want to be keeping more money in their bank? Using the right technology solutions will improve efficiencies and cut costs.
A bookkeeper will also prove helpful when it comes to your technology. They can perform an overall business systems analysis and provide recommendations of things you can implement to make the business’s operations smoother, more cost-effective and just plain easier for you as the owner and your staff.
There could be a lot of reasons you need to hire a bookkeeper or an accountant. Maybe your last one quit, or your staff is overloaded. Perhaps you were ripped off or are afraid you’re going to get ripped off because the person who writes your checks is the same person who reconciles your bank account. Maybe you were doing your books but no longer have the time.
Whatever the reason, the simple fact is you’re not getting the financial information and business intelligence you need to make accurate, timely decisions.
If you get the right person and processes in place, you get the correct information. Even if you’ve decided outsourcing your bookkeeping is better than taking on the hiring risk, you need to find the exemplary service to help you.
So what’s the first thing you should look for?
It does not just skill.
Of course, you need someone with basic skills. Your next bookkeeper or accountant should know how to:
There are a lot of people out there with those basic skills.
So how do you decide which one of those people is your perfect person? What’s the #1 thing to look for?
Skills you can teach. What you can’t teach is behaviour.
Even the most skilled bookkeeper in the world is useless if he can’t communicate his findings to you and other members of your team. The most experienced accountant in the world can’t help you if she cannot spot financial trends and suggest changes to boost your numbers.
You should focus on any critical behaviours to you and your company, but here are three suggestions: good communication, innovation and problem-solving.
A good bookkeeper or accountant is not only a reasonable number cruncher but also a part-time detective. Where’s this bill? Why wasn’t this expense signed off by the department manager, and should it be applied to a billable job? If you have a number cruncher who’s uncomfortable with reaching out to the rest of your team to track down questions, you have a number cruncher who may overlook an entry that should be flagged and questioned.
As those technological changes ramp up, you’re going to want someone who embraces change and has a continual learning mindset to implement best practices with your books. You want a bookkeeper who’s innovative so that your valuable payroll dollars are spent on the account analysis you need to get accurate and timely financial intelligence.
The best way to ferret out these behaviours during an interview is by asking situational questions like:
Don’t just take your prospect’s first answer and move on. Drill down even further into those questions. For example, to uncover a person’s communication abilities, you’d ask something like, “Tell me about a time you had to present complicated information to someone else.” Then follow up with questions like “How were you sure the other person understood? Tell me more about that. How did you know? What was the issue?”
In the end, you’ll find that looking for behaviours rather than skills will help you find people who not only fit the job but are more apt to fit your company and your professional expectations.
If you need help with your bookkeeping and controller functions, our financial services areamongf the most considerable outsourced bookkeeping and controller services in the United States.
Guest post by : team Form -
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