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10 Questions to ask before you hire a bookkeeper or accountant

Different people need different personalities to support them in business. You need someone that will work well with you, understands your needs and can meet your expectations.

Every bookkeeper is not a good fit for every business. And that is OK! There are many to go around, so spend time finding one that is a good fit for you.

A bookkeeper and/or accountant can help you reach the next level in business. This means it’s really important to find someone who is willing and excited to help you grow and grow with you. Finding someone you trust will allow you to focus on business strategies knowing the financial side is handled.

The following are important questions to ask when looking to outsource your bookkeeping:

1. What is the scope of work? Is this person here to help you with data entry only, or will they help you interpret the numbers as well? Which are you looking for?

2. What makes them qualified? If you’re looking for someone to help with data entry, you don’t need a ton of educational qualifications. Questions about their attention to detail are very helpful. If you are looking for someone to help you understand the numbers and use those numbers to make major business decisions, you’ll want to ask about their degree and work history to ensure they have the right education to help you get where you want to go.

3. Are they familiar with your industry? There is a learning curve to every industry. You as the business owner have experienced the many learning curves of entrepreneurship. I personally enjoy learning new industries and how they operate but I don’t deny that it takes longer to catch on than when I work with a client in an industry that I am familiar with. Your time is valuable and you don’t want to hire someone that needs hours of your time to learn your business. Find someone who is familiar with the industry or who will take the initiative to learn quickly outside of your inbox. You can ask them to give a few examples of financial struggles in your industry or give a list of references for businesses similar to yours.

4. How do they communicate best? You want to find someone who jives with your communication style. If you live in your email and the person you hire is always calling you, this may cause some tension and frustration. Finances are an important part of business ownership so it’s likely that you’ll be regularly communicating with your bookkeeper. Ask if they can communicate in a communication style that works best for you.

5. Will they be the one you actually work with? If you’re interviewing a firm/company, the person you speak to may not be the person who does the work or who you will be communicating with on an ongoing basis. Be sure to ask so that you can set your expectations from the beginning. If the person you’re speaking to isn’t the one who will be involved in your work, you can ask to speak to your potential account representative.

6. What you can you expect for response times? If you email your bookkeeper, it’s important to have an expectation set of when you will hear back. You want to work with someone that you can get ahold of when you need them. Accounting is not emergency surgery, so you don’t need to find someone who is going to be waiting by the phone for your call, but you do want someone who will be quick to get back to you and get your questions answered.

7. What can you expect for delivery times? It’s often misunderstood in the accounting industry that “month-end” financials are ready by the last day of the month. To properly reconcile and review a month of information, bookkeepers and accountants generally need a week or two depending on the amount of work and the rest of their client load. Setting this expectation from the beginning is important (for both parties).

8. How will they protect your information? Working with a bookkeeper is intimate. They have access to a lot of your financial information and it’s important to know that the security of that information is just as important to them as it is to you. Make sure they have a plan to keep your information secure.

9. How are services priced? It’s important to understand if they charge a fixed or hourly rate. If it’s hourly, you may get invoices that are higher than you budgeted for. Ask how they track time and if you can set limits for each month to ensure you stay in your budget.

10. Who owns the accounting software? While we don’t need to expect the worst, it’s important to have a plan for it. There are horror stories of accountants holding information hostage after a bad breakup. Be sure that you either own the accounting software (it’s in your name) or the bookkeeper has it written in the contract that the software will be transferred to your name as soon as a contract ends.

Overall, you want to be sure that you are hiring someone that you will work well with. Someone who understands your needs, can meet you at your level and will be available to answer questions as they come up.

What you don’t want is someone who is going to make a bigger mess than you started with.

Customize these questions to fit your industry, your style and what is important to you!


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