Tips for choosing the right bookkeeper.

For those who are internet savvy, finding a reputable bookkeeper is a lot easier today than it’s ever been before. A simple google search will undoubtedly give you plenty to choose from.  The information you can find out about these contractors will also be a lot more than you’ll ever find in the phone book, that’s if you still have a phone book!  Whilst there may be lots of bookkeepers, how do you know if the bookkeeper is competent, reliable and will be able to complete the job to your satisfaction?

Following are some things to keep in mind when looking for a bookkeeper for your business;

SHOP AROUND AND GET QUOTES – Just as you’d obtain quotes from a builder for building your new home, you’d also seek quotes from any prospective service provider.  In saying that, it doesn’t mean the cheapest hourly rate option will be your best option.  A trained professional may very well be able to complete your job in far less time than someone untrained therefore may work out the more economical option in the long run. When obtaining quotes, it’s also a good idea to request time lines as to how quickly the job will be completed.

QUALIFICATIONS COUNT – A good bookkeeper should have some formal bookkeeping or accounting training.  For your own protection it’s best to look for a Registered BAS Agent.  This will be a person that has satisfied the TPB (Tax Practioners Board) that they have the skills and experience to correctly account for GST and prepare your BAS according to legislation.  If you use an unregistered agent you’re taking a big risk as they may not have the qualifications or experience required and they may not have appropriate professional indemnity insurance.  In addition, if they are negligent in their duties, you will not be covered under the safe harbour provisions set out in the Taxation Administration Act 1953.   Check here to check if your bookkeeper is registered.

TECHNOLOGY KNOWLEDGE – A bookkeeper will more often than not these days be adept in one or more accounting software packages.  This can be a huge bonus as the bookkeeper may be able to recommend products or add-ons that bring about better efficiencies and allow for increased productivity.  At a very minimum, it’s important to ensure that the prospective bookkeeper has some experience and understanding in the accounting software of your choice or is at least prepared to undertake training to become proficient. 

INNOVATION – The bookkeeping industry has drastically changed over the past few years with the introduction of the Cloud and data in now available via the internet rather than on local PC’s and in-house servers.  Bank feeds and mobile APPS are active and collaboration around data is at its highest.  These products improve and evolve on a daily basis and guaranteed, they will continue to.  It would be wise to look at using a bookkeeper who’s prepared to stay abreast of the changes with a continual learning mindset to implement the best practises in your books.

COMMUNICATION SKILLS – You may have the best bookkeeper in the world, but it’s pointless if they lack the skills to be able to communicate back to the business owner valuable financial information.  The bookkeeper not only needs to be able to produce and explain financial reports but also needs to be able to point out discrepancies and problem areas.  If source data is missing it will prevent the bookkeeper from completing their job accurately, therefore it’s necessary for them to put on their ‘Sherlock Holmes” hat from time to time and request data from the appropriate person as annoying at this may be at times.  It’s also very important for the bookkeeper to be able to communicate with the businesses accountant for advice.  The accountant will appreciate the communication and more importantly, will appreciate receiving a nice tidy file at year end.

INTEGRITY AND TRUST – At the end of the day, your bookkeeper will potentially know more about your financial situation that your closest friends or family so it’s important to have a relationship based on integrity and trust.  If your bookkeeper has integrity they will have this quality from day one.  Trust however is earnt and develops over time so in the meantime the business owner may wish to put some precautionary measures in place.  The use of a non-disclosure agreement may bring some peace of mind as it’s a legal contract between the parties that outlines confidential material, knowledge or information that the parties wish to share with one another for certain purposes, but wish to restrict to or by third parties.

REFERRALS – Good bookkeepers will have plenty of satisfied customers, but finding one of these and getting a referral or reference is not always the easiest thing to do.  These satisfied customers are not likely to come knocking on your door to tell you how great their bookkeeper is, it’s up to you to seek them out actively.  Ask your prospective bookkeeper to provide a couple of referrals so that you can do your background work.  Perhaps ask the bookkeeper for referrals from accountants they regularly work with as the accountants will get to see the end results they receive each year for taxation purposes.

FINALLY – In addition to the 9 points listed above remember to always consider your instincts.   Whilst you shouldn’t choose your bookkeeper based on your gut feelings, you should always listen if your gut tells you something doesn’t mesh.  If this is the case, you’re probably right.

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