You’ve done it. You’ve finally made the decision to hire a bookkeeper. Finding the time to enter your myriad receipts into QuickBooks (or figuring out how to use QuickBooks in the first place) is now a thing of the past, leaving you more time to focus on your business.
But now what? How can you be sure you are getting your money’s worth with your new bookkeeper?
Here are my Seven Steps to Bookkeeping Bliss:
1. Share your vision.
Tell your bookkeeper why you got into business to begin with. Talk to her about your product or service and what separates your company from the rest of the pack. Share your five-year vision; how much money do you expect to make and what is your plan to introduce new products and services? The more your bookkeeper understands your vision, the more she will feel like a member of your team and feel committed to helping your business grow.
2. Come clean.
Your bookkeeper needs to understand how you have managed your books in the past. Here are a few of the types of things he should know:
- Have you ever tracked your business or personal expenses? Or does the mere thought of doing so make you feel queasy?
- If you have been tracking your revenue and expenses, how often is this done?
- Does dealing with your money overwhelm you? Has it been difficult to deal with money in the past?
- Are you a details person? Or do you just want to know the bottom line?
The more honest you are with your bookkeeper (and yourself!) about these questions, the better he will be able to work with you in a way that is valuable to you and your business.
3. Ask for what you need.
The time has come to review your profit and loss report for the quarter. How do you want this information delivered to you? In an email? An Excel spreadsheet? Do you need your bookkeeper to meet with you to explain the numbers and talk to you about how your business is doing? Or would you rather not even look at the numbers and instead be given the bottom line? It is up to you to decide at what point too much detail becomes overwhelming and make sure that your bookkeeper knows how to most effectively communicate with you about your business finances.
4. Protect yourself.
Your bookkeeper will need access to financial information such as your credit card and bank statements. Most bookkeepers would prefer that you give them online access to your accounts so they have instant access to your financials. This raises questions about security, which is why it is paramount that you hire a bookkeeper you have good reason to trust. I recommend getting at least two or three references for any bookkeeper you are thinking of hiring, and that you do a background check as well. If your bookkeeper has employees of her own, you should ask whether she does background checks on those employees and what systems she has in place to protect you. You may decide that you would rather send duplicate copies of your statements than provide online access. And remember, just because you hire a bookkeeper does not mean that you can stop looking at your credit card statements. Continue to monitor them to be sure that your accounts are not being compromised.
5. Delegate other duties.
Your bookkeeper can do more for you than just manage your books, such as paying your bills and even signing your checks. If taking these responsibilities off of your plate will make it easier for you to stay focused on running your business, do it! Just make sure you have safeguards in place. I recommend having your bookkeeper email you a weekly summary of bills paid and checks written, and that you consider having an agreement that he won’t pay bills over a certain dollar amount without your prior approval.
6. Make introductions.
Bookkeeper, meet Accountant. Accountant, meet Bookkeeper. The better the relationship between them, the easier managing your business finances will be. It’s also a great check and balance; tell your CPA which services the bookkeeper will be providing and ask your CPA to periodically evaluate the bookkeeper’s work. Have a conference call or in-person meeting with your accountant and bookkeeper at least twice a year to do a review of your financial statements. To ensure a streamlined process, make sure that your CPA can work with the software your bookkeeper uses.
7. Negotiate the rate.
Some bookkeepers offer hourly rates while others offer monthly packages. Identify the amount you can afford every month, and tell your bookkeeper to notify you when you have reached your monthly limit. Have your bookkeeper teach you how to run a few simple reports, such as the profit and loss report, so that you can easily check in yourself on your revenue, expenses and profits. You don’t have to become a bookkeeping ninja, but it makes sense not to pay for something that is relatively straightforward to do yourself.
Following these seven steps will ensure that your working relationship with your bookkeeper gets off to a great start, giving you peace of mind that your books are in good hands and providing you valuable time to focus on your business instead of your books. Bookkeeping has become a fairly commoditized business, so it’s possible that your bookkeeper may occasionally veer into the gray area of giving broad financial, legal, tax and insurance advice. Though she is almost certainly looking out for your best interests, in this situation it is always advisable to get a second opinion from your tax, legal, or financial professional.