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!

Resources:

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!

 

Top 5 Employee Motivators

1. Challenging Work—Providing your employees with challenging work does not mean over-loading or over-whelming them; it means that they are inspired to do more by being given challenges that help them feel more successful.

2. Recognition—Recognition is a powerful motivator.  Showing an employee that you recognize they bring their best effort to their work is key to employee satisfaction. Similarly, if an employee is unengaged in their work, recognition can bring an extra boost of confidence.

3. Employee Involvement—Your employees are aware of, and part of, the future goals of your organization. This is closely related to the practice of transparency, which means your employees see you actively engaged in work and trust that you’re keeping them up-to-date on what is going on with the organization. Work to create the sense that you are all in this together.

4. Job Security—Nothing will make employees disengage from an organization faster than fear they will lose their job. While you should aspire to create a work culture of transparency and employee involvement, take care to avoid sharing too much worrisome information about financial concerns, market issues, lagging sales, etc.  Helping your employees feel secure in the work they do will deepen their job satisfaction.

5. Compensation—While fair compensation is important, money sits at the bottom of this list of motivators. Increased compensation may bring employees through your door, but it doesn’t keep them for the long haul; no amount of money will keep someone in a work environment they are unhappy with.  

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

 

 

 

Happy Spring!

Bring growth and vitality to your business with an infusion of energy, fresh ideas, and new knowledge--take a class, attend a workshop, and participate in a networking event. Perhaps you're ready to hire new staff, or even shift gears in your professional life. Piggyback on the natural energy boost that comes with lengthening days and warmer weather to spring into a new chapter of success with your business, nonprofit, or career. See a list of opportunities below!

Ready to Hire?

Already growing this spring? Clarity can help you recruit and hire new employees! We offer a full suite of Human Resources solutions; in addition to coordinating hiring activities, we can also help you develop new employee benefits programs, create employee handbooks, and protect you from liability. If you'd like to have a conversation about your human resource needs, contact us at (360) 385-9963, or hr@clarityei.com

Ready for a New Adventure?

Clarity is seeking a resourceful, experienced Finance Director/Consultant to work with a variety of non-profit and small business clients. Flexible schedule; we welcome applicants seeking part-time of full-time work. Accounting degree and senior financial management experience required; CPA qualifications and consulting experience a plus. Based in Port Townsend. Please send resume and cover letter including desired salary to hr@clarityei.com.

Upcoming Events

April 15thFree public screening and networking event featuring the film "Tomorrow," 1-5:30 pm at Chimacum HS Auditorium & Commons, 91 West Valley Rd, Chimacum. Conversation topics covered will include local food, energy, transportation, waste, education, health and wellness, affordable housing, emergency preparedness, environment/climate change and the local economy. For a taste of this inspiring movie, check out the trailer

Event sponsors include: Local 20/20, Chimacum School District, Port Townsend Film Festival, Rose Theatre and Students for Sustainability. 

April 17th: Jefferson County Chamber Lunch Meeting with Lorna Mann, Director of the Port Townsend Visitor Information Center. 12- 1 pm, Fort Worden Commons. "Tales from the VIC: Find out how a presence in the Visitor Information Center can help your business and hear some of the weird and wacky questions that the VIC fields 7 days a week."

April 18th & 19thStarting a Business & Business Planning, with Tina Flores-McCleese. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

Earth Day! Saturday, April 22, 2017. Consider rounding up your employees and commit to a few volunteer hours to support and build community. Volunteers are invited to help on several downtown Port Townsend cleanup/weeding and painting projects from 9 am to 12 noon. Contact the Port Townsend Main Street office at 360 385-7911 or email admin@ptmainstreet.org if you would like to volunteer for the Earth Day Spring Clean-Up activities – or organize something of your own nearer to home! 

April 24th: Marketing & Social Media for Your Business, with Courtney Nestler of Bright Light Solutions. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

May 1stJefferson County Chamber Lunch Meeting with Earll Murman & Jay Bakst. 12-1 pm, Port Townsend Elks Lodge. Learn about LEAN thinking, and the work that Earll and Jay have been doing to help grow a LEAN community in Jefferson County. 

May 8th: HR Basics: Managing the Human Side of Business, with Candace Monroe of Clarity Enterprises. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

May 9th: Jefferson County Chamber After Hours Mixer at the Port Townsend Library. 5:30 - 7:00 pm, PT Public Library. Come for networking, food, drinks, and fun!

May 15th: Advanced: Marketing & Social Media for your Business, with Courtney Nestler of Bright Light Solutions. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

May 17th2017 Washington State Nonprofit Conference, Bellevue Meydenbauer Center. Gather with over 700 nonprofit leaders from our state, and learn about increasing equity, staying current, and going green. To learn more and register, follow the link above.

May 30th: Advanced HR Solutions: Flexible & Creative Strategies to Manage Your People, with Candace Monroe of Clarity Enterprises. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.