A good bookkeeper can make all the difference in a small business. Unfortunately, so can a bad one. Before you decide to hire someone to manage your books, consider asking the questions below. In the very least, you will spark conversation with the person to help decide if their services are a right fit for you.
1. How did you become a bookkeeper?
Not everyone that does accounting loves it. Not everyone who loves it has made a career out of it. But not everyone who is good at it loves it either. Bookkeeping is not fun for most people, but some of us get very passionate about it and some don’t but are just really good at it. Some bookkeepers get into because of the schedule flexibility. Whether its passion, skill, or chance, its good to know when hiring a bookkeeper. There is no wrong answer to this question, but it will give you an idea of how much they will be able to take off your plate. Consider what you need from your bookkeeper. If it is more than just data entry, make sure you’re choosing someone who can handle that.
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2. Do you specialize in particular industries?
In bookkeeping, every business’ books are unique. But the set-up, workflows, and lingo are similar in similar industries. What they answer to this question will give you a good indication of how much explaining you will have to do. For example, in the real estate industry property purchases and sales are unique from all other industries. If your bookkeeper does not have experience entering in real estate transaction, you may have to walk her through how the real estate industry works and she will have to learn how to translate that into QuickBooks language. Everyone is new at some point, but if they don’t specialize or plan to specialize in particular industries, you likely won’t get more than standard data entry and reporting. After all, a jack of all trades is a master of none.
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3. What qualifies you as a good bookkeeper?
Bookkeeping does not require an accounting education, but if your bookkeeper has one it will help. How they stay up-to-date with their education is important as well. The accounting industry is ever-changing and new technology continues to make things easier. Staying in the know with all of this is just as important as credentials. It is impossible to know it all in our world, so make sure they continue to learn and develop their skill set. Your goal in hiring a bookkeeper is to free your time up to get back to your craft. A good bookkeeper will advise you when needed. The only way to do that correctly is through a solid educational background and continuing education.
4. Who do you partner with and why?
I’ll say it again, a jack of all trades is a master of none. Your bookkeeper should have a good understanding of accounting, but bookkeeping is only one part of the accounting equation. One of Marcus Lemonis top ten rules of business is “know what you do not know”. A good bookkeeper knows when to pass a task onto someone with more expertise. By getting a good understanding of who they partner with, you can measure how often they do this and who they consider to be experts they trust. This doesn’t go for just accounting either. I have partners who are experts in my clients industries as well. For example, in real estate a 1031 exchange of property can relieve my clients of a huge tax burden. But it is complicated and needs to be done correctly. I have a partner in the real estate industry to refer my clients to in these situations. While it relates to tax, it is not my expertise. Your bookkeeper should have similar situations and you want to know that they “know what they do not know”.
5. What software do you work with and why?
QuickBooks can do a lot of things but there are a million kinds of software that work with it to do even more. Ask this question to find out whether they are proactive or reactive in what software they are experienced with. If they use a particular property management software for their rental property clients, ask why they chose it. Efficiency is important in bookkeeping. If the time isn’t taken to evaluate and learn new software, your bookkeeper likely won’t use it to its full advantage. Sometimes we cannot control what software our clients use, but we can make the effort to understand what is best for different tasks. A good bookkeeper takes the time to truly understand the software their clients use to best utilize it in their own processes. You can find out which applications are available that integrate with QuickBooks at www.apps.com
6. Who will be my actual bookkeeper?
This is important. You will work closely with your new bookkeeper during the first year of the partnership. A good bookkeeper takes time to understand your business and workflows. You want to make sure you have someone who has the time for that. You also want to get a good idea of what the partnership will look like moving forward. Who you are speaking with could actually only be a client manager and someone else is hired in the firm for actual bookkeeping tasks. Once you understand how they work with clients, decide if that structure will work for you and your business.
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7. How do you determine your pricing?
Even the most efficient bookkeeping takes time. It is just the reality. Ask this question so you can ensure that they consider how much time it will take to properly manage your books. Standard pricing is good, but adjustments are often needed for tasks to be done timely and correctly. When a bookkeeper prices incorrectly, something will eventually have to give and it will likely be your expense. There are only so many hours in the day. Remember that bad bookkeeping can be worse than no bookkeeping. Don’t base your decision solely on price. It can come back to bite you in the future.
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BMS Books is a small business bookkeeping firm that specializes in industry-tailored bookkeeping. We are able to offer quality services at a affordable price by streamlining our workflows through technology. Contact us for a free consultation at email@example.com