Choosing a Bookkeeper for your Small Business
In every profession there are the experts and then there are the cowboys. Your business is your livelihood and your finances underpin everything you do, so make sure that the bookkeeper you choose is an expert.
Bookkeeping is run by deadlines, government legislation, acronyms that are difficult to remember and most importantly of all consistent change!
So how do you determine which bookkeeper is going to be good for your business and is someone you can trust?
Here are a few steps that will help you on your way.
Ensure your bookkeeper is qualified
In 2010 federal legislation regarding BAS lodgement changed. This meant that your bookkeeper had to be qualified to manage your GST and to lodge your BAS. Since then we have seen a tightening up in all aspects of the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and new legislation around superannuation and payroll (STP – Single Touch Payroll).
Your bookkeeper must be a registered BAS Agent. To achieve this they must have a minimum of Certificate IV in Finance, 1200 hours of experience working under a BAS Agent and be a member of a professional body like the ABN (Australian Bookkeepers Network) or the Institute of Certified Bookkkeepers (ICB). They are also required to do ongoing training and maintain GST activities.
Ensure your bookkeeping is adding value to your business
Your bookkeeper should know your finances intimately. They will be processing your data, lodging your statutory reports and providing you with information to help you manage your business. It is imperative that you know you can trust them and that the information they provide you is correct and up to date.
Ensure the bookkeeper you select is organised and efficient. Their processes should be streamline and goal driven to help you ensure your financial and business success.
Ensure that your bookkeeper is trustworthy
The move to cloud-based bookkeeping requires more and more expertise from your bookkeeper. It is very important for you to feel comfortable with them and that you both build an ongoing relationship based on genuine trust and respect.
Your bookkeeper should always have ‘have your back”. They see the details of your financial transactions and understands how they should be treated and that they are bona fide. For example travel and entertainment expenses can be a minefield, attracting fringe benefits tax if handled incorrectly.
With a trustworthy and experienced bookkeeper you know that the details are being checked and you are kept informed of any issues that might arise.
Ensure that you have open lines of communication
Open communication is always the road to success. Your bookkeeper should prepare financial reports for you on a regular basis. These can include Profit and Loss, Cash Flow and Analysis, Sales reports, etc. These reports underpin the decisions you make in your business.
Your bookkeeper can share ideas with you including financial planning strategies, increasing revenue, rationalising expenses, etc. With your understanding of the overall goals of the business they can assist you to grow your business while keeping costs under control.
They should also be able to provide you with information in a manner that is easy to understand and relevant. Your questions should be answered readily and quickly. Some queries may need further clarification. A certified bookkeeper should have the capacity to do this for you.
Ensure that your software is right for your business
Much of the small business accounting software is cloud based these days. Expertise in the use of these software packages is essential and a lot of bookkeepers have their own preference. However each software program has its own strengths and weaknesses and it is important for your business that you are being directed to the right software for your needs.
A good bookkeeper should be able to discuss your requirements with you and give objective feedback on the pros and cons of software available and the costs involved. There are many add-ons available that for a small fee can make streamline your business cost effectively.
Online software is a competitive industry and software packages are constantly being updated. Your bookkeeper should be keeping up with these changes and inform you of their benefits and shortfalls. This can help keep your business up to date in a changing online environment.
Your bookkeeper is as much a part of your business as you or any other staff member. Make sure you like and trust them, and they speak your language. Great bookkeeping will add value to your business and give you the freedom manage and improve your business.