Six key signs of a great bookkeeper

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26th October, 2020

Six key things to look for in your next bookkeeper

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 that they 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 that 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.


1. Not all bookkeepers are qualified BAS agents


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 the direction of another BAS agent.

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.


2. Communication skills are critical in bookkeeping


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 and we make sure 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.


3. Knowledge of accounting software


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.

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4. Future-focused thinkers


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 is 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 as well as being aware 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 to migrate 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 there’s no more filing or paper shuffling when you use online accounting software, and she just needed someone to help her get it done right.


5. Good bookkeepers add value


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?

Will that bookkeeper process the information at the same pace as a bookkeeper who has invested their time and money in learning about all of the options available to you to save time? Will that bookkeeper feel threatened by the options available to you like Bank Feeds (which save hours and hours per month) because they’re worried about their income?

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.


6. Fostering trust is key


The primary answer here is trust. Your bookkeeper could be the only other person that intimately knows your businesses financials from day to day.

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 want to know. If they see that one of your staff have purchased 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 as a part of your business as you let them.

Find yourself an amazing 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.

Get started with a FREE one-hour business advisory consultation when you sign up to MYOB Essentials today. Find out more.