Four Tips for Finding A Great Bookkeeper

Having a terrific bookkeeper on your team brings peace of mind and improves your organizational health. But finding a great match for your business can be hard, especially if finances aren’t your strong suit.

To begin with the obvious, they should have basic bookkeeping skills, including:

  • Proficiency with bookkeeping software

  • Ability to add vendors and customers to your books

  • Ability to manage accounts payable and receivable

  • Familiarity with payroll taxes, and how to pay them online

  • Ability to reconcile bank and credit card statements

  • Knowledge of what clean books should look like, and the ability to spot errors and sleuth out problems

It’s also helpful if they have knowledge of and experience with your industry or organization type. But beyond these fundamentals, are there other guidelines for finding a great bookkeeper for your organization? Here are four tips that can help you identify just the right team member, whether you are making an internal hire or finding a bookkeeping contractor.

1. Look for someone who asks relevant questions. Good questions can provide insight into whether they are thinking about the big picture and anticipating problems. People who ask good questions are more likely to be proactive—to think strategically, to identify bottlenecks, and to improve systems, increasing efficiency and helping your business thrive.

2. Look for someone who is a good communicator. Clear, consistent, transparent communication is an essential set of skills for your bookkeeper. Not only do they need to feel comfortable asking your team for missing information, tracking down money mysteries, and sharing concerns about processes and systems, they need to be able to explain to you their reports, findings, and analyses in a way you can understand.

3. Look for someone who embraces innovation. Software is changing quickly, and cloud-based solutions are transforming bookkeeping and accounting. On top of that, add in the many apps that can be integrated with your books, your banking, your database, your customer service processes, etc. Many tasks that were formerly time-consuming can now be automated. In this era, you need a bookkeeper who embraces change and isn’t afraid to dive in and learn something new.

4. Look for someone who is a problem solver. When your numbers don’t reconcile, when information is missing or incomplete, when something just doesn’t feel right in a report, you need someone who isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and become a detective. If a system or process just isn’t working, you need a person who will not only identify the problem, but also help to develop solutions.  

If your contractor or bookkeeping candidate has a strong set of basic skills, and also shows these four attributes, you have likely found a good match.

Even when the team is solid, it’s sometimes helpful to have a bit of bookkeeping oversight—an expert resource your bookkeeper can call when a tricky situation arises or a tough problem develops. In these cases, Clarity is here to help. We can provide ongoing oversight and support for your bookkeeper, making sure they know about emerging technologies and industry best practices, and serving as a resource when the numbers just aren’t making sense; Clarity can be part of the team that keeps you fit and moving forward. Call today to learn more!

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10 Tips to Help You Stay on Top of Your Books

Whether you are outsourcing your bookkeeping or doing your own books in-house, as the leader in your organization you need to know your financial information is reliable.  Understanding "best practices" and incorporating them into your own business processes will help you get data you can trust, so you can make the decisions that are best for your business. 

Here are some tips to help you stay on top of the books:

1.     Get or stay involved!  Knowing what the system is and how it works helps keep you, the director of this show, in the know. A broad understanding of the way the books work will help you to make informed decisions regarding processes, and to understand the capabilities and limitations of the data. If you need education ask questions, do some research, or take a class.  Finances are not everyone’s favorite topic – but it is vital to the success of your organization!  And in particular, if you are a board member for a non-profit, it is part of your fiduciary responsibility to each donor.

2.     Make the most of the data.  The information that is being entered into your bookkeeping system is used fulfill state and federal requirements (taxes,) but what else are you using the data for?  Make the data work for you. Set up reports to help you zero in on areas that help you manage your organization.

3.     Have your processes documented.  Focus on the how as well as the what. We know that processes are often undergoing change as the way we do business changes, but it is important to document this as a protection for your organization. Updating this periodically is an opportunity to review and make adjustments as circumstances change.

4.     Never have your bookkeeper as a signer on your account.  Naturally, access to accounts is helpful, but there must be checks and balances and this is a big one. Have your bookkeeper manage the entry and classification of transactions, but allow for having another person to authorize the bill payments or payroll deposits. 

5.     Make sure you see the bank statement each month.  Are you familiar with all the activity you see?  All deposits, transfers and checks written?

6.     Check in with your tax professional mid-year or 3rd quarter in addition to tax time.  Your tax professional needs to know what is going on with your business so that if you need it, you have time to implement their recommendations to save tax dollars.

7.     Cross-train your staff. Plan for the unexpected! It is not unheard of to find yourself in a compromised position due to illness or sudden changes. Remember, this is a team – make sure you have some backup.

8.     Set a regular time to meet and review your financials.  Reviewing sales, projecting cash flow, estimating upcoming expenses and liability payments are some of the things you should be reviewing on a regular basis. This could be weekly, monthly, or something else, depending on your organization’s need. If it is a date with yourself, your in-house support or if you outsource the work, consistency creates a window of time where you know these items will be addressed and allows you to get on with your other tasks.

9.     Create systems to help your organization’s efficiency.  Something as simple as coding your transactions when they are approved relieves so much verbal communication – sometimes words can be misinterpreted, but a number is definitive.  Any effort made to streamline this work makes it more reliable and lets you get to other parts of business that need your attention.

10.  Provide your staff and yourself with support.  Invest in the time to explore how this part of your business can provide valuable information. Invest in documentation and processes to support and assist your mission. Invest in your staff to provide training to help them do the best job they can.