3 Steps to Finding a Great Bookkeeper

Natalia Autenrieth In her professional lives across the United States, Natalia Autenrieth, CPA has audited Fortune 500 clients as part of a Big 4 team, built an accounting department as a controller of a large hospital, and served as a CPA consultant to municipalities. Today, Natalia coaches in the financial industry and writes about business finance, financial technology, and personal money management. Her ghost-written articles have appeared in thought leadership and expert blogs, as well as Kiplinger and Accounting Today. Read more about Natalia and her practice at www.AutenriethAdvantage.com.

3 Steps to Finding a Great Bookkeeper

Handing off bookkeeping is a smart move for many small business owners. By delegating the books to a qualified professional, entrepreneurs can minimize the risk, eliminate last-minute emergencies, and focus on running their business.

However, choosing the right bookkeeper is not easy. Just because someone has the right certifications and happens to live in your area does not mean he or she will be a great choice for your small business.

There are 3 important steps to consider before you hire a bookkeeper.

Get Clear on Your Needs

Most advice articles would tell you to begin with qualifications. While a string of complex acronyms after the bookkeeper’s last name can certainly be comforting, it is best to start the process by reflecting on your needs. Specifically, what services do you anticipate you will need over the next 1-3 years?

Some small business owners need a professional to simply record all transactions every month and generate a profit and loss statement. Others want their bookkeeper to manage cash flow projects, handle payroll and pay vendors. Then there are tax returns to file. Do you expect that your accountant or bookkeeper will also serve as a strategic partner, be available and qualified to analyze financial statements, make recommendations on business strategy and financing decisions?

How the bookkeeper delivers the service is also important. Are you naturally proactive and on top of administrative tasks, or would you prefer that your bookkeeper serve as your accountability partner with frequent reminders to help you get things done?

Takeaway question: “What do you wish more clients understood about how to get the most value out of working with you?”

Understand the Bookkeeper’s Skills and Experience

Now that you are clear on what you need, you are ready to look at the bookkeeper’s qualifications. Unlike an accountant, a bookkeeper does not need a state license to do work. However, many bookkeepers invest diligently into their education and continued professional growth. From software certifications to tracking working hours, a great bookkeeper does not just dabble in debits and credits.

Consider the bookkeeper’s past experience in your industry. This is particularly relevant for those who operate in a specialty field. For example, if you run a family-owned lacrosse equipment store, a bookkeeper with 3 years of related sports retail experience may be a better fit than someone with 10 years of general experience.

Takeaway question: “How long have you been doing bookkeeping? How much of that time have you worked with clients like me?”

Consider the Business Aspects of The Collaboration

Most small business owners do not need a full-time bookkeeper that is 100% dedicated to their business. Any time you are working with someone remotely or on independent contractor basis, it is a good idea to consider all the logistics. Diligent research and open conversation can create the foundation for a great relationship and minimize unpleasant surprises in the future.

Here are some of the points to consider:

  • Think about how you will deliver the information to the bookkeeper. Some small business owners scan and email their monthly bank statements. Others give the bookkeeper read-only access to their financial records or software.
  • Consider your payment options. Your bookkeeper is a professional with established business practices, but there is often some flexibility to accommodate the form of payment and the billing frequency that would work for both of you.
  • Think about optimal service frequency that will meet your needs and deliver great value. Ask the bookkeeper what his or her process is in the event of an emergency. More service typically means you have to pay more, but it also means that you will be supported with good advice and diligent work when you need it most.

Where Do You Find a Great Bookkeeper?

The traditional route to finding a bookkeeper is to begin with your local business resource center. You may also look into published directories of professionals that are certified by software companies such as Quickbooks. Other professional associations such as the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers or the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers can be great starting points for your search, as well. If you are open to working with a bookkeeping professional remotely, services like www.bench.co can offer great value and solid expertise.

Your Blueprint for Finding a Great Bookkeeper

If you are ready to delegate debits and credits to a qualified professional, begin by defining your needs and expectations. Next, get to know the bookkeeper’s professional background and experience. Have an honest conversation about the logistics of working together, and do not limit yourself to professionals who happen to share your zip code. Technology can connect you to highly qualified talent from all over the country!