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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Set Your New Hire Up for Success: The Secrets of Onboarding

You followed our 6 Steps for Hiring The Right Person, and you found a fantastic new candidate to join your team. How do you keep the positive momentum going? A thoughtful “onboarding” process is a critical component of successful entry for your new hire.

These first activities are most likely a new hire’s first impression of your organization and will set the tone for their experience.

1. First, have your hiring documents ready to go:

  • Employee offer letter

  • Job description (this protects you as an employer),

  • W4,

  • I-9,

  • DSHS New Hire Reporting Form,

  • Employee manual  *(We will write a future post with more detail about what to include in an employee handbook.)

2. Next, be sure to provide policy & procedure manuals. Clear and concise policy and procedure manuals are essential—they help protect your employees, and they help protect your business or organization from liability. Again, we will write a more detailed post on employee manuals soon, but for now, know they should cover these key topics:

  • Organizational values and expectations

  • Organizational compliance with applicable law

  • HR best practices specific to your industry.

  • Clear guidelines and expectations around equipment. ( Who owns the cell phone, PC or laptop being used remotely? Who is responsible for maintenance of those electronics?)

  • Policies around work hours, meals and breaks, workplace harassment, and vacation,sick, and family medical leave. (Every employee has a right to one hour of sick leave for 40 hours worked as per new Washington State law.)

3. Finally, create a plan and timeline for a 90-day Orientation Period. The orientation period happens after the initial onboarding meeting. In these first 90 days on the job, you’re providing training and support to your new hire (training should be your focus for the first 30 days, with scheduled check-ins throughout the 90-day period.)

In your initial orientation, outline your schedule for probationary period, and make it clear that there will be a performance assessment with termination if expectations aren’t being met. This will help provide legal cover if you need to terminate. We recommend you schedule check-ins for questions and constructive feedback at end of first week, then 30, 60, 90 days after. Get as much feedback as possible from the employee on what’s working for them and why. If possible, capture the highlights in a written report. This is a performance management component of an initial phase of employment.

Sometimes, for various reasons, an employee can get off to a rocky start; you can always choose to extend a probationary period beyond 90 days. But heads up: if someone is not succeeding in their orientation and probation period, they are unlikely to work out for your organization. You are more than likely seeing the best a person has to offer in the first 3 months. Extending the probationary period may just increase the amount of time (and money) you are investing in an employee who likely isn’t a good fit.

If you plan these activities into your 90-day onboarding process, your new employee will have clear direction around how their job functions, what their tasks and roles are, applicable team processes, performance metrics, and workplace expectations. When coupled with a great hiring process, a solid onboarding process helps strengthen your chances of having a productive, successful, long-standing employee. Good luck!

 

Six Steps to Hiring the Right Person for the Job

This article is excerpted from an HR best practices webinar that Clarity presented in partnership with Washington Nonprofits.

Human resources are the people that make up your workforce—from the largest corporation to the smallest business or nonprofit organization. They are the engine that power your ability to invent things, produce things, or deliver services. Humans bring the value to your enterprise. As a business or nonprofit organization, your employees are your greatest expense and your greatest opportunity.

Once hired, it takes 6 months for an employee to learn all aspects of their job, and an additional 6 months to become proficient at it. This means it takes a full year to begin to offset the cost and investment of the employer. To receive a return on investment of a full year of expenses associated with hiring, on-boarding, training, and supporting your new employee to proficiency, you really need to keep an employee for two years. This is why it’s important to find just the right fit for your position during the hiring process!

Here are six steps every organization should take to boost their chances of finding and hiring a great match.

1. Assess. First, take the opportunity to assess the needs of your organization. Do you have a strategic plan? Does the position you’re hiring for support the strategic needs of your company or organization? Is the position really needed? It could be that your organizational needs have evolved since you last hired. Would a restructuring of the position or different reporting structure better meet your needs and vision?

2. Determine organizational culture & values. This may be the most important facet of the hiring process. What are your organization’s core values, and how are those communicated to applicants, job candidates, and existing employees? If you have clearly identified your mission, values, and goals, you have a much better chance of honing in on a good match. A good match increases the likelihood that a candidate will be able to align with and adapt to the core values, expectations, and behaviors that make up an organization. A good match will minimize work drama, save money through reduced hiring and training, and increase retention.

3. Create, update, improve the job description. Make sure every employee has a job description containing the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform the core functions of that position. It can be short and sweet, or detailed and complex, depending on the needs of the position.

4. Advertise. First you should consider whether internal recruitment will best serve your needs. Internal recruitment brings the advantage of knowing whether a candidate is a good fit for your organizational culture; they also likely have existing knowledge of the job responsibilities and may be able to quickly come up to speed in a new role.

Sometimes there isn’t an internal candidate that would make a good fit. If you decide to advertise externally, cast as broad and diverse a net as possible. Here is a list of common sites for posting and searching job openings: Indeed.com, monster.com, Craig’s List, Philanthropy NW, LinkedIn.

If there are relevant membership organizations, industry organizations, or list-serves, include them, as well as local & regional newspapers. Are there any means of advertising in minority communities? This will encourage diversity in applications.

You may also decide you want to include a supplemental survey that gives you more information about what the candidate is looking for in a job, if they will be a good fit for the culture of the company, or whether they bring other sorts of skills, experience, or perspective that might be beneficial for your organization.

5. Screen. Screen applications with HR staff and the manager, or person on staff who has the greatest knowledge of the job requirements. Ensure the confidentiality of the application and resume screening process. Screen all applications and resumes for qualifications, values and mission fit, job experience and achievements, and references before going to the interview stage.

6. Interview. Only interview top candidates. Establish who will conduct the interview—will it be a single manager or team? Prepare 10 quality interview questions in advance; questions that provide a good sense of skill set and organizational fit. Maintain consistency between candidates of interview team and questions asked.

This may seem like an exhaustive and exhausting process, but we can’t stress this enough—hiring the wrong person can be an expensive, time consuming mistake.  Hiring the right person for your job can bring stability, sustainability, and significant return on investment.

With a little luck, and a lot of legwork, this six-step process can yield an excellent candidate for your position.

Next month we’ll talk about the on-boarding process. Can't wait until then? Watch the recorded webinar here: The Lifecycle of an Employee: HR Best Practices