In our continuing series – how to hire a bookkeeper, we will focus on communicating with your bookkeeper about what services will be provided. When hiring a bookkeeper or bookkeeping service you should always clarify what services will be provided. You want to avoid any unpleasant surprises or let downs when working with a bookkeeping service.
Here are some guidelines you can use on how to hire the right bookkeeper:
1. Be specific about your bookkeeping needs
When interviewing a bookkeeper, be very specific about what your needs are. Telling the bookkeeper that you want your books “reconciled” is not enough. Tell them the following:
- The types of transactions you have (invoices, customer payments, bills, bill payments, checks, deposits, payroll)
- The volume of work – how many bank accounts, how many credit card accounts, how many transactions a month, etc.
- The complexity of the work – you may have a specialized business that requires more complex transactions
- How often you need the work to be completed
- When you would like your financial reports to be ready
The more detail you can provide the better. In most cases, the bookkeeper will ask to see your QuickBooks file and may even ask to see bank and credit card statements to assess the volume of work you are requesting.
2. Be clear about who will be responsible for specific transactions
You may want to enter all your invoices and customer payments and you may want the bookkeeper to do the rest. On the other hand, you and your staff may enter all transactions and you may want your bookkeeper to reconcile your accounts. You may even want the bookkeeper to handle all bookkeeping tasks for you. Be clear on what you will do and what you expect the bookkeeper to do.
If you want to handle some bookkeeping tasks, ask the bookkeeper if they are comfortable with that arrangement. Sometimes, as business owners we want to have control over our company’s bookkeeping tasks but a bookkeeper can handle a lot more tasks much more effectively if we are willing to give up some control. In the long-run the bookkeeper can handle the work faster and more accurately than we can.
3. Make sure you are communicating – watch for terminology
Most business owners use the word “reconcile” to refer to a lot of different things. For a bookkeeper, reconcile means a reconciliation between the bank account and QuickBooks. This is a small (yet important) part of doing a company’s bookkeeping. Rather than trying to use bookkeeping terms with the bookkeeper, just tell them what you want. Tell them “I need you to assign accounting codes to all my downloaded bank and credit card transactions” or “I need you to make sure that transactions are entered to the correct account”. Improper use of bookkeeping terms can lead to a whole lot of confusion.
4. Additional services provided
When comparing bookkeeping services, you should consider the extra services that the bookkeeper will provide. Will they answer your questions every month? Will they communicate with your tax accountant? Will they set up financial reports for you? Ask your bookkeeper to learn whether their services include additional perks.
5. Request a written bookkeeping service agreement
Your bookkeeper should provide you with a written service agreement. The service agreement should spell out exactly the services that the bookkeeper will provide. Be sure that you read the service agreement and understand it before you sign it. You wouldn’t want to sign the service agreement without reading it only to find out later that there was a miscommunication with your bookkeeper.
Hiring a bookkeeper can be challenging if you don’t know what to expect or what to ask. Use these tips to make sure that you communicate your expectations to your bookkeeper and that you agree on the work that they will perform. You’ll see that when you start out in agreement, you will have a long and productive relationship with your bookkeeper.