How was your last experience at hiring a bookkeeper for your business?
If you had to rate the interview process on a scale of one to ten, with 10 being best, what number would you choose? Using that same scale, how would you rate the quality of the bookkeeper you chose?
If you’ve never hired a bookkeeper before, this article will not help you with the interview process – that’s for another blog post. But it will still help you handle the most important issues of choosing and hiring the right bookkeeper for your business.
In an active business there’s a lot of pressure to find the right person quickly to fill the important and responsible position of a bookkeeper. And many times, business owners settle for someone based on the lowest price, which normally means “less experience”. I know it’s obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: super-quick decisions made under pressure and choices based on lowest price are not the best criteria for hiring the person who is going to be working with your personal and business financial records.
I was talking with a colleague today about this very subject, and she summed it up perfectly in the form of a question every business owner should ask himself or herself when considering a hire…I’m paraphrasing here:
Can you really afford to finance the learning curve and pay for the mistakes of the person who has less experience and agrees to work for you at the lower wage?”
This isn’t a rhetorical question. It has real financial implications. But the financial costs are often unseen because the impact is spread over time.
Here are the 7 Top Tips for hiring a bookkeeper for your office or outsourcing an online bookkeeper:
- REVIEW RESUMES. After you review the resumes for the position, spend time calling on the references. Most employers are not going to tell you much other than verifying information you already have. But there are questions you can ask that will give you a feel for what kind of person you’re considering. Example: “Would you rehire this person?”Try to “connect” with the person on the other end of the phone. Tell them you are considering hiring their former employee with a brief explanation about your needs and your business. Ask if they think the person would be a good fit. Listen too for what is not said.
- GAAP SAVVY. You want a bookkeeper with an understanding of GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). Ideally, this person has training and/or experience in double-entry bookkeeping. This means they understand the theory behind bookkeeping. Many businesses think a computer program is all you need to solve your bookkeeping needs… and they do come close. But there are some differences in how computer programs handle records and how they are handled in true double entry bookkeeping. If your bookkeeper doesn’t understand these differences, incorrect entries may be made or missed. Things are going to crop up where a knowledgeable bookkeeper is invaluable.A bookkeeper isn’t going to replace your CPA, but a good bookkeeper can prevent, clean up and trouble-shoot many problems for you. And they will know when it’s time to contact your CPA for higher-level help when needed. This saves you money in the long run.
- ACCOUNTING PROGRAMS. Computer literacy for accounting programs and Excel is important. If you have a specialty business, it helps if your bookkeeper has experience in that area or a similar business program.
- COMPATIBILITY. Compatible personality between you and your employees or co-owners is a plus, but the real issue is communication. You should know right away if you’re going to be able to communicate effectively with your bookkeeper. While this is more of a “gut” decision, it will help to take classes on communication, both verbal and written to be sure you are giving and getting what you need from your bookkeeper.
- NEPOTISM. Resist the temptation to hire your spouse as the bookkeeper…same for friends. Spouses and friends have different boundaries than hired employees, which is going be a problem at some point. You can’t afford to mess up your relationships and your books at the same time! If you can’t stand your bookkeeper or they are not doing the job you hired them to do, you can more easily release them and find a new one.
- SCHEDULING. If you’re hiring a bookkeeper that won’t be in your office every day, negotiate a work schedule that is comfortable for both you and your bookkeeper right up front, and stick to that schedule. You and your bookkeeper need to be responsive to each other in a timely manner. Bookkeepers rarely call for minor questions, and a question usually means further work can’t continue until you’ve responded. If either of you can’t respond immediately to the other, make it clear when you can.
- ENGAGEMENT LETTER. Request an Engagement Letter from a prospective outsourced bookkeeper and read every word to understand all aspects of the agreement, scope of work, payment terms, etc. before you commit to hiring. The Engagement Letter will serve to memorialize terms of your working arrangement. Take advantage of the opportunity to be sure everything has been discussed up front. Make any changes before both of you sign. Have your final version of the Engagement Letter reviewed by a lawyer if you aren’t comfortable before you sign. If you’re hiring a bookkeeper to work in your office, you may want to consider a contract or Engagement Letter as well.
Lyrae Perry has a BS in Business Management, 25+ years in accounting, contract management and B2B communications & marketing. She is a copywriter, author and professional artist.
Lyrae has more than 18 years full charge bookkeeping and office management in both union and non-union businesses.
She has been a professional writer since 1979, but understands that marketing writing is a little different than the “How To” work, whitepapers and pseudo-scientific writing she started with.
So she went back to school!
She studied under the very best marketing copywriters in the world at AWAI and honed my skills in three main areas:
- Auto responders and Email campaigns
- White Papers
- Website Copy and Landing pages
Learn more about Lyrae here: