How to make sure you find a good bookkeeper and make the most of them.
We cannot over emphasise the importance of good bookkeeping to successful business, and yet so many owners pay little attention to it or neglect it entirely. If you don’t, can’t or won’t do it yourself then you need to find a good bookkeeper to do it for you.
Below are our ten top tips to bear in mind when looking for a good bookkeeper and how to make the most of them.
Make sure they know what they are doing
Unfortunately, ‘bookkeeper’ is not a protected title in UK law so anyone can call themselves one, regardless of education or experience. Having previously worked in an accountancy practice or having a qualification from a professional bookkeeping body can help lay to rest some of these worries, though many bookkeepers are qualified through years of on the job experience rather than letters after their names.
If not being directly employed by you, make sure they have professional indemnity insurance (PII) that covers you for any mistakes they make on your behalf with accounts or taxes.
Ask them about your industry
If they can give you a few points on issues that often occur in your industry then you maybe on to a winner. Although the bookkeeping process is relatively standard, each industry and sector has its own quirks so if they know about them already all the better.
Like them as a person
Your relationship with your bookkeeper is every bit as important, if not more so, than your relationship with your accountant, lawyer or bank manager. They will be dealing with the day to day of your business and you will be working with them a great deal if you truly make the most of them. It’s important that you get on and that you can explain things to each other in a way the other understands so the process becomes as painless as possible.
Don’t underestimate the time needed
Many businesses fail to recognise just how much time is needed to keep the records in good shape, so make sure you allocate enough time and resources to it if you want decent accounts. If the business has doubled in size in the last year then it’s unlikely that the bookkeeper will be able to complete all the tasks in the same amount of time as previously – so allocate more resources.
Seek their guidance
Chances are they will have worked on many different businesses, in many different industries, so if you hit a problem, chances are they will have come across it before. Ask them what they have done previously.
Be clear on what you are expecting from them
The term ‘bookkeeping’ is vast and could cover everything from simple data entry to the filing of complex VAT returns. Be sure you both know what you are expecting from the other, what the limitations are, and where the accountant steps in to take over. If subcontracting to an outsider make sure there is a letter of engagement in place so there is no doubt who is responsible for what.
Listen to their recommendations
Your bookkeeper will want the process to be as streamlined and as pain free as possible for everyone, so if they make a recommendation listen to it. If they have an idea on how to speed up invoicing, how to make payments simpler or how to store receipts better then take it on board.
Be honest about your limitations and issues
Any ‘issues’ with the accounts will be found by the bookkeeper sooner or later, so if you know there is a problem with something then tell them upfront so they can address it. If you know VAT on sales invoices may be wrong then let them know so they can look into it right away and get it fixed. If you know you are terrible at keeping invoices ask what they can recommend to make it easier for you.
There are many different accounting software packages out there – all with similarities and differences – so make sure the bookkeeper knows how to use your system of choice. If you have bespoke or industry specific then make sure they know how to use it – either from previous experience or further training. Products like Xero have made it a lot easier for laymen to use, but never assume it’s easy.
To speak to us about your bookkeeping needs – or anything else – contacts on the detail at the top of the page.