Written by: Shani Fowler
Finding a bookkeeper might seem like a pretty straight forward task, but it’s finding a good bookkeeper that can be the tricky part. Some companies might believe that plonking someone in front of a computer screen and getting them to input numbers from various documents with little understanding of what they are doing is all that is required.
Why do I need a bookkeeper?
Firstly it is essential for an organisation to realise the importance of good bookkeeping before it seeks someone to grapple with their accounts. Accounting is the grass roots level of any business. It can serve to be the eyes and ears of the whole organisation. A good bookkeeper can play a critical and instrumental role in a business achieving success and understanding accounting is much more than making sure that there is more money coming in than there is going out.
Without the fundamental task of accounts being kept in good order, businesses can easily underestimate what their real financial position is, and heading a long way down the wrong path can spell disaster. Bookkeepers need to understand profit and loss reporting, work to tight deadlines ensuring VAT submissions, tax deadlines and supplier accounts payments are met. They have to help ensure good relations with customers and suppliers; they need to create equilibrium. Accurate accounting will identify problems early and can highlight areas of opportunity, detect trends and allow business development. So the role of bookkeeping is as you can see so much more than data entry. They are the ring master to the circus, a conductor of the orchestra!
What should I be looking for in a bookkeeper?
So what skills and attributes should a good bookkeeper possess? It might seem like stating the obvious that someone dealing with accounts should be honest, but there have been countless instances of employees in a position of trust who have defrauded companies or “mismanaged” accounts. Sometimes these employees have gone undetected for long periods of time. So checking references with regard to honesty is a high priority.
It may be prudent to obtain a CRB check if possible. This should be born in mind with all organisations but especially with expanding companies. Expansion creates a level of fluidity and often an organisation may inadvertently have to heavily rely on, and place total trust in their bookkeeper so they can focus on other areas.
A bookkeeper needs to have a high level of attention to detail, there may only be nine numbers and a zero thrown in for good measure, but those numbers have to balance and make as much sense as reading a book does. No one undertakes any job without making mistakes, but double and triple checking work, making sure it adds up is essential.
Saving you money
Spotting and remedying any mistakes is easier to do earlier rather than later, as the longer its left the harder it is to track back. Good bookkeepers are adept at finding payment duplications, false invoices, overdue payments, avoiding penalties and a whole host of money saving tasks. A bookkeeper needs to understand what they are doing, why they are doing it and know that they are doing it right. A methodical and analytical approach to their work is vital.
A good bookkeeper can be versatile
It is not always necessary to have a bookkeeper who is familiar with a particular industry. A good bookkeeper can usually quickly pick upon how an accounting system works and within a short space of time become familiar with practices. A good bookkeeper will ask questions, they will want to know how regular something is paid, where an entry should properly be posted. Time and training should always be invested in them, they are not magic, nor are they psychic. I suspect if they had psychic abilities it would be the six lottery numbers that would most interest them!
Reliability is also a key essential. It’s simply no good having an all singing all dancing whizz at the books if they are not going to turn up and do them for you. When there are deadlines to be met a company needs to feel assured that their bookkeeper is going to show up to do the necessary work.
They are part of your company
It is often a preconceived idea that anyone working with accounting is quite dull. Obviously that is not the case. Get to know your book keeper well; they might surprise you with their ability to engage in witty repartee. Include them in the company as part of the company irrespective of how many hours they are contracted to do, and whether or not they are employed or freelance.
If someone can recommend a bookkeeper to you with all these attributes this is often a great way to secure one. It is false economy to not employ the services of a good bookkeeper and once you have got one, try to keep them; they may conduct your orchestra and keep them in tune for a long time to come.