1. Establish Expectations and Responsibilities
When you hire a bookkeeper to manage your back office responsibilities, you should be very concise and communicative regarding the segregation of duties as every company’s needs and pain points are unique. An experienced bookkeeper will be able to manage and optimize a wide range of tasks for you, including but not limited to the tracking of income and expenses, account reconciliations, accounts payable and receivable administration, payroll, cash flow management, sales tax filings, and financial reporting. As the client, you may not require your bookkeeper to incorporate a full charge service offering (for example, you may actually prefer to send your own invoices or pay bills on your own). You can lean on your bookkeeper to be one of your most trusted business advisors, so be sure to clearly specify your expectations in order to ensure a smooth transition. Your collaboration and experience with your bookkeeper should be pleasant at all times, especially during the initial onboarding stages of the relationship! You will find comfort in knowing that your back office is running as efficiently as possible and you are in compliance at all times, all while lightening up your workload in order to focus on the things you love doing instead of the things that eat up your valuable time.
2. Fine-Tune Workflows and Communication
After your bookkeeper completes their end of the onboarding process with you and your company, workflow and communication expectations should be adjusted whenever necessary in order to optimize your time. As the client, you should always be knowledgeable of which deliverables to expect from your bookkeeper going forward (i.e. on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis). You should find comfort and reassurance in knowing that your bank accounts have been reconciled and a profit and loss report will land in your inbox by a specific day each month. If you have a weekly payroll cycle, you should be informed of the exact day of the week your bookkeeper will administer payroll as well as when to expect the total cash requirements in order to properly fund your payroll wage and tax debits.
Communication is key! Do you prefer to communicate via email, phone, or via a collaboration app like Slack? How often do you expect to hear from your bookkeeper (i.e. weekly, monthly, quarterly, never)? All of these details should be ironed out up front so both parties have a clear working relationship. Do not hesitate to ask questions and provide feedback.
It should always be acceptable to call or email ANY question to your bookkeeper. A professional and dedicated bookkeeper will always reply in a timely matter. While your bookkeeper is proving you a service and is not your employee, they are a part of your team and should be genuinely interested in the success of your company.
3. Provide Easy Access to Account Data
Did you know most banks and credit card institutions provide guest access logins with limited permissions? If your bank offers this, set your bookkeeper up with a username and password so that they can view all debits and credits without bothering you for check or deposit images and bank statements.
Every month, your bookkeeper needs to see who you wrote checks to, details on each deposit made into your checking account and access to the monthly bank statements. It is easier for both parties if your bookkeeper can pull this information on their own rather than bother you to send it to them. In the event that your bank doesn’t offer this access, you can setup a shared password-protected dropbox or google drive folder or explore a third-party app that can fetch information automatically and deliver it to your bookkeeper.
If you use a point of sale system or outside payment processor like stripe or square, your bookkeeper will also need access to these platforms in order to properly separate revenue from sales tax collected, payment processing fees, retainers, refunds, tips, etc. If the net deposit is coded into your Quickbooks file directly as sales, your revenue and credit card processing fees will both be understated. Your bookkeeper will need to log in to all third party channels in order to adjust these values in your accounting software (i.e. QuickBooks).
4. Stay On Top of Financial Reports and Ask Questions
Your bookkeeper should be sending you financial reports on a regular basis (i.e. weekly, monthly, quarterly). At the bare minimum, these reports should include a Profit and Loss (“P&L” for short) and Balance Sheet. In order to accurately gauge the financial health of your business, your reports will serve as a voice to identify key performance indicators of your company. Your bookkeeper should be able to explain these reports to you, so you can make business decisions based on real, accurate data. Always ask questions if you do not understand any aspect of your financials. An experienced bookkeeper will be able to break down your data in a sensible and comprehensive fashion
Other reports that may interest you are accounts payable and receivable aging summaries, cash flow statements and budget vs actuals. If you are not sure what type of reporting you should be exposed to or how often you should be assessing your financials, your bookkeeper should be able to advise you on what is best for your business. As a default, most small business owners will view reports on a monthly basis, although companies within certain industries (i.e. restaurants) should be analyzing their financials on a more frequent basis.
5. Get Strategic
You are not an accounting expert and did not open a business to learn how to be a bookkeeper. Fortunately, technology and professional bookkeepers are on your side to help you manage the back-office elements of your business without breaking the bank. Take advantage of your bookkeeper’s expertise by asking questions. Hesitating to ask for help or clarify a workflow deflates the value of your business relationship. Your business will grow and thrive as a result of having a strong connection with your bookkeeper and reliable data at all times. Some questions to evaluate the health and future of your business include:
- Trim the fat: Where are we wasting money?
- Prioritize your efforts: What are the top three ways we can improve our finances?
- Avoid the growing pains: Is there a role to fill? Can we afford to hire another employee?
- Raise the bar: How are we performing compared to industry standards?
- Compliance is Key: Are we collecting the correct amount of sales tax on my invoices? Did we remit the correct amount to the state?
- Mortgage no more: Can we afford to accelerate the principal portion of our loan?
- Cashing-In: Can we afford distributions to our partners? If so, how much?
- Don’t work for free: Do we have any receivables that are past-due?
- Time is money: Are there any third-party applications we can integrate with our back office to optimize our internal workflow and save us time?
- By entrusting your bookkeeper to assess your company’s financial pulse regularly- you will be able to identify areas of improvement that will help boost your efforts to grow and scale your business.