Many owners of a small business have reluctance to hire a bookkeeper. Some of the reasons include:
We can’t afford one
I don’t want any employees
I don’t trust anyone else with my money
I enjoy managing the money myself
While these can be valid points for a business just starting out, at some point it makes sense to either hire a bookkeeper or outsource this function so that the owner can focus on more profitable activities, or tasks they know more about, and leave bookkeeping to an expert.
But...how do you know what to look for in a bookkeeper to give you that peace of mind?
Below are the key areas to ask candidates when considering them for your business.
Will your bookkeeper allow you to do a background check on them? If not, I’d recommend walking away from them, if not running away from them. A background check would reveal many things, like prior arrests for embezzlement that would warn you not to use them.
Do they have current or prior clients that have (or will) provided references on their bookkeeping services? This is one of the best checks for you. A bookkeeper can have all the credentials in the world, but if they don't take care of their clients what good are they to you? Ideally, you would have at least one reference from a business that is similar to yours. But, this isn’t necessary as most bookkeeping tasks are similar across different industries.
What credentials does this bookkeeper have? Do they have a degree in accounting? Are they certified in the programs you use, like Quickbooks? Are they certified in bookkeeping? Are these posted on their website? You want some evidence that this person has the ability to perform your bookkeeping tasks. Ideally, your bookkeeper has all of these credentials posted on their website for your review. They are typically found on the home or about pages down at the bottom.
Do they have experience in your industry? If not, it may not be a deal breaker. A lot of the tasks for bookkeeping are similar across business types. But if you have a choice between two people and one has done bookkeeping for the exact industry you’re in, choose that person (all else being equal).
Will they prepare an engagement letter that clearly states what services they will perform, what is needed from you as the client, fees…? Knowing and agreeing to everything up front prevents misunderstandings down the road. This letter also shows you how flexible the bookkeeper is. Will they perform extra services later on, will they meet over Skype, will they explain the financials, or just hand them over to you.
Are they willing to discuss your needs in person or over the phone? If so, do they sound like they value you and understand your needs? Do they sound professional? Can they answer your bookkeeping-specific questions, so you can test their knowledge? Do you get along with them? Is this a relationship that will work for you?
Hiring or outsourcing your bookkeeping can be one of the best things to do for your business and yourself. Take the time up front to make sure you on board the right person. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, effort and grief down the road, if you do.
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