What bookkeeping services should your business have? The easy answer: all of them.
But obviously, there's a lot more to it than that--and you absolutely do need all the bookkeeping if you want your business to grow and thrive.
From just over 11 years of owning a bookkeeping company, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the books being done as an afterthought by someone who has neither the training nor inclination for bookkeeping, and they're often one of the lowest paid employees as well.
As an example, back in 2006, I was doing a conversion to QuickBooks for Mac and was sitting with the receptionist who was also the bookkeeper. Hiring someone as both a receptionist and a bookkeeper isn't the issue. The issue is that bookkeeping skills and knowledge are seen as a bonus, not a critical component of the job.
In this particular case, she hadn't been trained, had no interest in learning how to keep the books correctly, didn't really have the time to do it. The result of this was that the books were in terrible shape. I was going through a bank reconciliation with her where she'd checked off everything in Quickbooks and everything on the statement, but the accounts weren't reconciled. When I asked her what she'd normally do, her response was that she'd push the enter key repeatedly until windows stopped popping up. In the long term, this lack of interest, training, and knowledge can have dire consequences for your business.
There are a few things we can do in situations like this. We can take the time to train the employee properly, but if the employee doesn't want to learn, this will be an uphill battle in every sense of the term. Or we can talk to the business owner and explain the services we offer and how we can complete these tasks more efficiently and correctly which will then give them solid financial numbers to make decisions about the company. And as a bonus, their employees can focus on tasks which will help the company make money.
So here are the bookkeeping services your business needs:
- Accounting program setup. Don’t do this yourself. It doesn’t matter what program, although I'm a big fan of QuickBooks. Find someone who knows what they're doing and have them set it up and show you how to use it.
- Payroll setup. Unless you’re intimately familiar with payroll laws and compliance, you should be paying a professional to do this work. If you need to more persuading on this point, please read this article here about paying penalties.
- Sales Tax Setup. Just like your accounting program setup and payroll setup, you need a professional to do this.
- Figure out what you don't want to do and then pay someone else to do it. Trust me on this one. If you don’t mind creating the invoices, but keep forgetting to apply the payments? Pay someone. If you're good are paying bills online through your bank website but really bad at entering them into your accounting system? Pay someone. If you can manage to get your employee’s paychecks done on time, but keep forgetting liability payments? Pay someone.
That last one might seem a bit nebulous and it is, until you start working with someone who will help you figure it out. It’s also the first step in getting procedures in place--well before you need them--that will help to alleviate growing pains.
You're probably wondering where you can find someone to do this work, what the term of your arrangement will be, and most importantly, what it's all going to cost.
There are a few ways to find someone. You could start with findaproadvisor.com and search for someone in your area. If you belong to a local business group or chamber, they usually have a list of members and there's probably at least one in there that's a bookkeeper--and if not, then another member will be able to suggest someone. You can also ask around to other business owners or your tax preparer if they have a recommendation. If you belong to an online forum specific to your industry, ask that group if they can give you some referrals; these might be best, because they’ll have experience in what your business does.
As far as what the relationship looks like, that is really up to you and the person or company you hire. The two most important things are that you should trust this person and feel comfortable with them. Like any relationship, you want to make sure that it’s a good fit for both of you. In my company, we have a very specific process that we go through before we take on new clients, to make sure that everyone can work together. We have some clients that we are in contact with via text or email nearly every day and some clients that we only hear from every few weeks.
Everyone does pricing differently. We have what we call Base + billing for our bookkeeping services--it’s a la carte service pricing, but we also provide custom pricing as well. Regardless, unless it’s data clean-up, our pricing is always flat fee. Some others, like my friends Laura Redmond or Cathy Iconis, offer set package pricing and others will charge by the hour.
Once you determine who you want to work with, what you want or need to do yourself, and the what you need or want your bookkeeper to do, you’ll be able to develop specific systems to run your back office. Back office systems need to have three attributes in order to facilitate the growth of your business: they need to be repeatable, they need to be trainable and they need to be scalable. A good bookkeeper can help you with all three.
If you want your business to grow and thrive, you do need all the bookkeeping--and you need a professional bookkeeper to do it.