I feel that many small businesses don't get as much out of their bookkeeper as they should. Often it can be the fault of the bookkeeper. It could be a lack of skill, determination or motivation on the bookkeeper's behalf. Other times it may be the fault of the small business owner. Maybe the owner is not clearly communicating their expectations or doesn't know the right things to ask for from their bookkeeper. Here are a few things I would ask of your bookkeeper to get the most of out of your small business bookkeeper.
I find that many small businesses don't hold their bookkeeper accountable to their expectations. We are often asked to take on a bookkeeping job for a company that already has a bookkeeper or bookkeeping service. The business owner typically tells us the reason they want us to take over is because the current bookkeeper is not doing a good job. Although this is sometimes true I also have found that quite often the problem is with the business owner and not the bookkeeper.
As a business owner it is your responsibility to clearly communicate your expectations to your bookkeeper. You should be communicating to your bookkeeper several key items:
- What date do you need the books closed out by each month?
- Is there a list of reports you need to see on a regular basis?
- How often do you need to pay bills?
- How often do you need the checking account updated for a true handle on cash flow?
These are just a few of the items that I would clearly communicate to my bookkeeper. Additionally after you have communicated this to your bookkeeper you need to hold them accountable. In exchange your bookkeeper should hold you accountable for the role you play in the bookkeeping process. We often find the reason the bookkeeper is not meeting expectations is because of lack of communication from the business owner. If there are unanswered questions holding up the process that is an owner issue not a bookkeeper issue. Sometimes the bookkeeper is not given all of the necessary information that is needed to complete the bookkeeping to meet expectations. Both the bookkeeper and business owner need to hold each other accountable to get the bookkeeping updated properly.
If you are not asking for small business financial reporting from your bookkeeper you should be. Financial reporting can really help your business no matter how small of a business you are. Your financial reporting is only relevant if you are looking at accurate financial reports. Accurate financials only come through reconciling your accounts. By reconciling your accounts you can be sure that all of your financial information appears on your financial statements. You should still review any transactions that you are unsure of how to code with your bookkeeper and CPA. If you put some regular financial reporting in place for your small business it can really make a difference. Good financial reporting gives you a real time analysis of your business. By staying on top of your bookkeeping and financial reporting you should easily be able to spot opportunities and potential problems. You should have a much better handle on your cash flow. You should be able to take your historical data and create a financial forecast as well as a budget to hold your business accountable to. The end result should be to increase both your sales and overall profits.
Collecting Accounts Receivable
Another area that I feel many bookkeepers are underutilized is regarding accounts receivable. I feel that the role of collecting overdue payments should fall on the bookkeeper. All too often this role is not clearly communicated with the bookkeeper. Keeping a clean accounts receivable aging summary is absolutely crucial to your business. A healthy accounts receivable means less bad debt and more cash flow for your business. Clearly communicate your accounts receivable policies with your bookkeeper and make sure they stick to them. How often do you need overdue invoices followed up on? Watch your AR aging report and make sure your bookkeeper has answers for all past due items. Turn your bookkeeper into a collection agency for your business.
Ask for additional special projects from your bookkeeper. Maybe it is cleaning up AR or AP. Maybe you need a custom report built that would really help you run your business more effectively. Have your bookkeeper look over your merchant statements once a year to look for ways to save money. Have them shop your merchant services, insurance and other operating costs with other service providers to look for ways to save money. Don't let your bookkeeper fall into a mundane routine. Always be asking for more from your bookkeeper; it keeps the job interesting for them. Additionally asking for more from your bookkeeper makes them feel more important. It makes them feel empowered and they will be more motivated to watch out for what is in the best interest of your business.
You should ask your bookkeeper to be your financial watchdog. Tell them that you want them to always be looking out for issues in your accounts and to bring any concerns to your attention. Even small details like watching your bank fees can be huge. While many business owners may find these details to be more of a bother than they are worth I disagree. If your bookkeeper is bringing items to your attention like overdue balances, a charge that didn't seem right or other details it means they are watching out for your businesses financial well-being. When your bookkeeper brings questions or small details to your attention don't act bothered, rather thank them and answer their question.
A small business bookkeeper can be a major asset for your business if utilized correctly. Often your bookkeeper knows as much if not more about the financial state of your business than you might. Keep asking for more from your bookkeeper to get the most out of them.