Six things to look for in a bookkeeper

26th July, 2016

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.

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 question the things they are told by their bookkeeper as the alternative would be them diving into a world 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. Is your bookkeeper also a qualified BAS agent?

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. Does your bookkeeper talk to you?

Does your bookkeeper answer queries in a way that you understand?

If they don’t know the answer, do they admit to not knowing but follow through and find out the answers for you?

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. Does your bookkeeper insist that you use a certain type of 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.

I don’t believe that this is serving you, the client, effectively at all. What’s most important is that the business owner chooses the software that will serve their business best.

A good bookkeeper should be able to listen to you and then give you an objective view of the pros and cons of all of your options. The choice is yours.

4. What about technology?

You’ve heard of ‘the cloud’. That term scares so many but has changed the face of how we all do business.

Has your bookkeeper embraced these changes? Are they excited to tell you about new options available to you to save you (and them) time and money?

I had a client come to me recently who had just left a bookkeeper who was too nervous to put her data file into the cloud. The first thing we did was migrate it to the cloud, set up bank feeds, pay super and connect other time saving add-ons. The bookkeeping time has been cut by more than half! The client is ecstatic because she can now store her receipts and documents in the cloud. There’s no more filing or paper shuffling when you use online accounting software.

5. Will your bookkeeper add value to your business?

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 are worried about their income?

The bookkeeper you need is someone who is priced right for the job. They are there to add value to your business, not just clock some hours until the job is done.

6. What is it that you want most from your bookkeeper?

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.