“Outsource your weaknesses.”
Many successful entrepreneurs will list this as a major factor contributing to their success when advising new small business owners to get outside help for tasks like bookkeeping, payroll and administration. When you consider that 70% of businesses fail due to poor in-house financial management, that advice seems spot on.
Unfortunately, many small business owners seek to keep costs low by doing everything themselves— unwittingly sabotaging the financial stability of their own company. If numbers aren’t your strength and you would rather focus on building your business, it’s time to hire a bookkeeper. Here are five ways to ensure you find the right fit.
Choose a bookkeeper with experience in your industry
The nuances of bookkeeping vary from one corner of the market to another. When assessing candidates, it’s important to look not only at total years of experience, but also at the relevance of that experience. For example, if your business is fashion, a bookkeeper who has primarily worked in the auto industry won’t have the insights into your industry that can really add value to your work together.
Choose a bookkeeper with the proper credentials
Bookkeepers providing BAS (Business Activity Statement) services for a fee are registered BAS Agents and need to hold a minimum level of professional qualifications, adhere to a code of conduct, undertake ongoing professional development and maintain professional indemnity insurance. Registration is overseen by Tax Practitioners Board. You can search the TPB register to ensure your bookkeeper is registered.
It’s also worth checking if they are part of a professional governing body like The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers. Most associations test applicants to verify their technical skills and theoretical knowledge, with the goal of protecting and furthering industry standards. Many associations require members to earn a credential, prove a high standard of proficiency, and continue to improve their skills through ongoing professional development.
Choose a bookkeeper who understands current and future trends
The bookkeeping/accounting industry is fast paced with a huge variety of choice of software, apps, add-ons and other cloud technologies. Choosing a bookkeeper who not only understands this landscape but also embraces it, will help to ensure that your business is taking advantage of the latest trends and is also “future proofing” for growth.
- Do they align with software vendors?
- Are they partners with these vendors?
- What training have they undertaken in these software solutions
- Have they done integrations with add-on solutions?
- Do they attend industry events?
- What types of ongoing professional development do they undertake?
Showing confidence in these areas will help you to choose a practitioner with an eye of the future.
Put a high premium on communication skills
It’s imperative for small business owners to have open, effective communication with their bookkeeper. You will need to sit together regularly to review key financial reports, such as the profit and loss statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. An effective bookkeeper should be adept at explaining and breaking down complex accounting concepts in accessible ways, so you always have a clear understanding of your financial position.
Your bookkeeper should also understand your business processes and be able to suggest ways of gaining efficiencies with technology or best practice processes. During the interview process, ask your candidate to explain a few key concepts, like gross and net profit, margin vs markup, various payroll experience.
Look for experience and a substantial number of past clients – preferably ones in the same field of business as you. Ask for references and talk to some of those clients if you can, as they’ll give you useful information.
Strong communicators can make the abstract easily digestible –exactly what you need in a prospective bookkeeper.
Evaluate honesty and reliability
When you hire someone to look after your books, you place a considerable amount of trust in their personal integrity and trustworthiness. But how do you evaluate these character traits during an interview? The best approach is to ask open-ended questions that get your candidate talking about ethical challenges they’ve faced in the workplace, such as:
- Tell me about a time when you committed an error. How did you handle the situation and what did you learn from it?
- What would you do if someone else took credit for your work?
- How would you respond to uncovering an unethical or fraudulent accounting practice in the workplace?
The bottom line is that hiring a bookkeeper is about much more than finding an able number-cruncher. The practitioner you choose will be an integral part of your business success. Look holistically at your applicants’ technical skills and character to find your ideal match, and you’ll gain a valuable professional ally and trusted advisor for years to come.
Remember we Love Your Numbers, you love your business