What to look for in a bookkeeper

tax time bookkeeping

If hiring a bookkeeper is one of your company’s many struggles, it is possible that you might not know what you are looking for. Bookkeeping duties may vary from organisation to organisation, however, there are key qualities to look for in an awesome bookkeeper.

1. What bookkeeping duties do you need?

A major misconception is that they all have the same duties, however, there are many services that bookkeepers offer. The services required from your bookkeeper are dependent the scope of work the job will cover. While some local bookkeepers provide Account Management services, others may be limited to data entry or record keeping. 

Consider who will do the following bookkeeping jobs:

  • Bank reconciliation (And how often? Daily / weekly / monthly)
  • Entering supplier bills, categorizing company expenses, and paying suppliers
  • Raising sales invoices and following up with debtors
  • Checking the coding of transactions to ensure they have been coded to the correct account and with the correct tax treatment
  • Filing sales tax (GST, HST or PST)
  • Prepare financial documents such as Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet
  • Help to interpret the reports and tell the story behind the numbers

2. Your bookkeeper’s level of expertise is key

All bookkeeping duties require a certain level of expertise. From data entry to account reconciliations and preparing financial documents, you want your bookkeeper to consistently produce accurate work and communicate efficiently with you. Has your bookkeeper established a process which enables them consistently to deliver? Is your bookkeeper in line with best practices within your province? These are the questions you need to ask when trying to determine the level of expertise.

3. How do you prefer to work?

Do you want someone in your office; or are you comfortable working virtually?  If there’s one thing the COVID -19 pandemic has taught us, it’s the huge scope of work that can be done remotely. While having someone on-site may give you a sense of security and handling bits of paper may be easier, it is much more cost-effective to work virtually.   Working with a local virtual agency gives you high levels of accountability with the cost savings of outsourcing.   If you’re unsure how your work can be done virtually have this conversation with your bookkeeper.   Chances are high they have solutions and software that will help your own business take steps into the future while saving time and money.

4. Is your bookkeeper actually interested in your business?

This one may catch you off guard or have you asking “why does that matter?”  As a business owner, it’s likely critical to you that your team members (contractors or employees) are engaged in your business and want to see your success.  The same should be true for your bookkeeper.  Are they taking the time to get to know you as a person and business owner?  Do they understand what your business is?  

Understanding what you do and why you are doing it can critically impact how your books are being done.  Beyond that, having a bookkeeper who is truly engaged in your success means they are more likely to pick up on potential opportunities or risks on your behalf.

5. How well does your bookkeeper communicate with clients

Communication is key. It is important to establish how your bookkeeper communicates with not just you, but your clients. Is your bookkeeper, clear and concise or ambiguous and witty? Does your bookkeeper write in a language that is easily understood by all stakeholders of your business; and, through the right channels for effective collaboration?  Ensure to ask how the bookkeeper would normally communicate with their clients. Then, make sure their style fits with your team’s culture to avoid communication difficulties in the near future.

6. What are your turnaround time expectations?

It is often heard that bookkeepers have a slow turnaround time. Every business or accounting firm has a set schedule that they work with so it’s important to establish what your turnaround time expectations are when looking for a bookkeeper. Ask about what you can expect each week/month from them and what the expected response times are to your questions.

Here at It’s Your Time, we have made a commitment to respond to clients within 24 hours.

7. Are you hiring the bookkeeper directly or working with a full-service agency?

Hiring an agency rather than a virtual bookkeeper helps spread the risk. However, with a bookkeeping team, it is likely that the person you are speaking to while initially engaging a bookkeeper will be different from the team member who does your processing.

In this case, ask about what quality control and internal review procedures they have.

For example, at It’s Your Time, all client work is reviewed through VerifyiQ AND a peer review monthly. It also goes through our Quality Assurance team quarterly at a minimum.

8. Does your bookkeeper protect their clients’ confidential data? How?

By virtue of the job, you will be sharing sensitive company and financial information with your bookkeeper, so you need to be able to trust them. You can start by asking questions about how they protect their clients’ accounts, their internal controls and segregation of duties, and their knowledge of data privacy.

For instance, we recommend that you create a segregation of duties between the role of the bookkeeper completing bank reconciliations and the person raising invoices or paying bills.

This is another area where ensuring you are booking monthly or quarterly check-ins with your bookkeeper is important – it allows you to get a better sense of what has been completed.    

9. How do they price their services?

Is your bookkeeper charging hourly or fixed monthly rate? How will the bookkeeper or accounting firm charge?

The trend in bookkeeping services is to charge a fixed rate. If this is the case, make sure you are clear about what is and isn’t included in that fixed rate.  At first blush, an hourly rate may seem more attractive; but can balloon well beyond what you had initially intended (with no ill intent on behalf of the bookkeeper).

10. Can your bookkeeper transition into a CFO role?

A bookkeeper is responsible for fulfilling and managing transactions, preparing financial documents, data entry and reporting, based on the bookkeeper’s level of expertise they can engage in advanced duties such as tax filing, business strategies, business processes training, etc, somewhat like a CFO. A CFO is responsible for managing the financial operations of your business in line with the business projections to create a profitable business. If you are looking for a bookkeeper to provide the services of the CFO, ensure you are looking for an experienced bookkeeper with a track record of success in advanced duties and certifications to match.

Alternatively, you could work with a local bookkeeping agency that will have team members at all skill levels.   At It’s Your Time, we have bookkeepers ranging from junior to senior along with Controllers and CFOs.   This allows us to provide monthly packages to clients that meet their needs with the right skill sets supporting them at each step

11. Can your bookkeeper save you money?

Hiring a bookkeeper is a cost incurred, however, hiring the right bookkeeper will save your business from unwanted financial and time costs. Get a bookkeeper who can provide insight into cost savings.   A low productivity rate will cost your business missed opportunities.  Compliance issues can result in penalties and interest and inaccurate books can be misleading when making financial decisions. Not to mention, the cost required to clean the mess left behind. Quality and value will far outweigh the “cost” of hiring a great bookkeeper or bookkeeping team.  

Here at It’s Your Time, we work with our clients to ensure they get the most value out of their packages and save cost without compromising on the quality of work. 

In summary, hiring a bookkeeper that is the right fit for you is an important decision that should not be done based on the lowest cost or without thought. What are you looking for in a bookkeeper?

Contact us to learn more about how AWESOME bookkeeping can be!

Share this post