How to Help Your Clients Choose the Best Bookkeeper
Why, your client may ask, do I need a bookkeeper when I already have an accountant?
To some, the roles seem synonymous. Even the dictionary contributes to the confusion, listing both as a person who records the accounts or transactions of a business. Though bookkeepers and accountants deal with the same financial information, they manage different aspects of it. Similar to the relationship of nurse and doctor or carpenter and architect, one handles the day-to-day while the other focuses on the big picture.
Every entrepreneur should understand what they need and what to look for as they search for the best bookkeeper for their business. As their accountant, here’s how to help them choose the right one:
A Great Bookkeeper has Skills
Unlike an accountant, a bookkeeper doesn’t need a state-issued license to work. Regardless, they should have some level of training or accreditation. Several national associations offer bookkeeping certification, including the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers, the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers and the National Bookkeepers Association. Additionally, bookkeepers can receive training and certification through the QuickBooks ProAdvisor® Program.
To qualify for one of these certifications, bookkeepers generally have to meet the following criteria:
- Pass the Uniform Certified Public Bookkeeper Examination.
- Possess two years (4,000 hours) of bookkeeping or accounting experience, OR possess a bookkeeper certificate or associate or bachelor’s degree in accounting.
- Agree to abide by the NACPB Code of Professional Conduct.
- Obtain 24 hours of CPE (certified professional education) credit each year.
A Great Bookkeeper is Experienced
Whether an independent contractor or operating through a firm, a great bookkeeper has experience – preferably in your client’s industry and with the same accounting software you use. When interviewing bookkeeping prospects, business owners should ask in-depth about experience to avoid incorrect assumptions. After asking multiple questions, it may become clear that someone with only two years of industry-specific experience is a better fit for your company than someone with 10 years of general bookkeeping experience.
In terms of technology, you want someone who is familiar with (if not already an expert in) the accounting software you use. But, with a variety of versions and product lines available, a bookkeeper answering that they’ve used your preferred accounting software isn’t enough. Dig deeper to find out whether they’re using the same version. For example, QuickBooks® comes in several major products, such as Desktop, Online and Self-Employed. Follow-up questions could include asking them what they do to stay up-to-date in accounting news and technology.
A Great Bookkeeper Wants to Build Their Business
With enough time and attention to detail, anyone can enter numbers into a ledger. But, that’s not what makes a great bookkeeper. A great bookkeeper understands your client’s business, spots red flags, and recognizes opportunities for improvement and growth. A great bookkeeper will ask questions to allocate things correctly; he or she will want to solve problems and implement processes that offer you and your business the most value. To find this trait in a potential employee, you have to know what you’re looking for. Sample questions could include:
- In your past position, how much interaction did you have with vendors and clients?
- What type of reporting structure did you work within in previous jobs?
- What have you done with previous clients to increase revenues, reduce costs or save time?
- Have you done anything recently to become a better bookkeeper?
A great bookkeeper understands that by building your client’s business, they are bettering theirs. He or she should have an established process they use for almost every client, including how they handle day-to-day operations, what payment options they accept and how they handle emergencies.
A Great Bookkeeper is Someone They Can Trust
More than qualifications and good references, the best bookkeeper is someone you can trust. They should be honest and transparent. They should be easy to reach via phone or email. Whether employed full time, their personality should mesh well with their company culture to ensure the best fit for both of you. Consider interviewing more than once to get a better idea of fit; include trusted employees in the meeting and change the interview location, if necessary.
In the interviews, focus on more than just qualifications and past experience. According to the Harvard Business Review, in an interview, signs of trustworthiness are often shown by a person’s warmth and competence. Warmth signals that a person has good intentions toward the perceiver, and competence signals that they can act on those good intentions. Ultimately, it comes down to following instincts. Gather what information you can, and then help them make a decision based on a potential bookkeeping candidate. Good luck!