What to Expect from a Bookkeeper
Whether you have a bookkeeper already or you are on the search for one, you need to evaluate if they are a good fit for you. A quick search for bookkeepers in the US returns millions of results, so how do you identify a good bookkeeper vs a great one. This post will discuss some qualities you should expect to find and things that they will expect from you in return. Remember, you are searching for a bookkeeper relationship, not just someone who can produce reports. You’re trusting them with you financial data, so they should show commitment to you and your business’s health.
This is the most obvious of the traits you should be looking for in your bookkeeper. A good bookkeeper knows how to account for the transactions that happen in your business. They are committed to continuing education, so they never fall behind on the new information put out by various entities who regulate your bookkeeping.
A great bookkeeper, however, goes beyond just knowing what they need to do. A great bookkeeper takes the time to understand you and your business, to be sure you are receiving the best possible service. They help you understand how your business is running, not just sending financial statements, but providing easy access to reports you need in order to improve your business. This knowledge helps them provide honest feedback when you need to make decisions, such as creating a budget at the end of the fiscal year.
Financial data is useless if it is not timely and reliable. If it’s July and you still don’t have financial statements for March, you run the risk of financial trouble. Have you collected all of your outstanding receivables? Did you pay all the bills you received? Did you hit your revenue goals for the first half of the year? Did your expenses go way over what you had planned for? The answers for all of these questions can greatly impact the way you make decisions for the rest of the year.
Even if you are only a month behind on your bookkeeping, you could run into serious issues. Most businesses close their books within 5-10 business days of month end. If your bookkeeper (even if it’s you) finish in that window, a change probably needs to be made. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to leave the bookkeeper you’ve had for 10 years. Maybe they just need a reminder of the date you need your reports or you need to create a more automatic system for getting data into your bookkeeping software. Whatever the cause of the delay, your bookkeeper should find a way to get reports to you on or before the agreed upon date.
Reliable and Proactive
Reliability can mean many things, but most importantly your bookkeeper should be able to create reliable financial statements. This means that the financial data can be verified by things like receipts and contracts. If a transaction goes through your bank account or credit card, your bookkeeper should make sure there is proof that it is a business transaction. If they don’t have that proof, they should ask you to send it to them, so your financial statements are ready in time for your monthly review.
You should also be able to rely on them in the usual, non-financial sense. You shouldn’t have to question whether your books will be done properly and timely. They should be consistent with their communication and not constantly making excuses about why they can’t make their scheduled meeting with you. They should be proactively looking for ways to improve their work and relationship with you. If you have no confidence in your bookkeeper, how can you have confidence in their work?
I’m sure you’ve heard many times in many contexts that communication is the key to everything. Well, it absolutely applies here as well. You will know if your bookkeeper has all of the above traits based on their communication. You should be confident that they will respond quickly to any and every question you have. You should be able to easily understand what they’re talking about, even when they are explaining difficult concepts. Everyone communicates differently, so they should be able to explain things the way you can understand. If you feel confused or patronized after your conversations, you might want to consider finding someone new (or at least talking to them about it). They may not realize that they aren’t speaking your language, but they should be able to sufficiently answer your questions without being confusing or talking down to you.
Your bookkeeper should also have regularly scheduled reviews (monthly is best). You should have been sent your financial statements a few days in advance, so you have a chance to review them on your own. You should both be sure you are on the same page with any transactions that have occurred, especially ones that don’t happen very often. You don’t need to go transaction by transaction during your meeting, but you should look at things at a high level to be sure everything's running smoothly. This is also a great time to look at your budget and the prior year to date statements to see how you are doing. Your bookkeeper should come to the meeting with some talking points, and not just expect you to do all the comparisons by yourself.
Part of this review process should include recommendations from your bookkeeper. For example, businesses sometimes have monthly or annual subscriptions to associations, magazines, software, etc. They may recommend that you do a quick review sometime this month to make sure you actually use all the subscriptions you are paying for. If they have several clients in your niche, they may notice that a certain expense category is much higher than their other clients. While they obviously can’t tell you specifics about their other clients, they could suggest that you look into less expensive vendors, which could increase your profits. Obviously, they shouldn’t be judgemental or seem like they’re telling you how to run your business, but sometimes getting an outside perspective is exactly what your business might need.
A person’s mindset pervades everything they do, from their work ethic to their way of communicating. Overall, a great bookkeeper should have a positive mindset and enjoy their work. Those who have positive outlooks on life tend to do better work and be more pleasant to work with. While it’s not a necessary attribute for the work to get done properly, you will find yourself feeling more positive about you business if you surround yourself with positive influences, including your bookkeeper.
Looking for a great bookkeeper? Feel free to contact me and see if I’m the perfect fit for your business!