Is your bookkeeper an asset or a liability?
I’ve been a professional bookkeeper and BAS Agent for 14 years. I’ve worked with many business owners in a number of different industries who’ve either never had bookkeepers in the past, and some where I’ve taken over from a previous bookkeeper.
In my experience, the bookkeeping industry is a very collaborative one. There’s way too much work out there for all of us to handle, so don’t necessarily consider each other competition. Bookkeepers and BAS Agents are generally small business owners too, and we understand the struggles of the small business owner in general. We take pride in our work, conduct ourselves with integrity, and truly strive to do everything we can to empower our clients around their accounts.
Today I came across a client who’s bookkeeper did not hold the same standards and care as I do, and those of many of my bookkeeper colleagues. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time I’ve come across a bookkeeper who has provided a less than satisfactory service and it’s really disappointing that there are those out there who portray themselves to be professionals, but really do not have any idea what they’re doing, and have no business doing it (this can be said for the shonks in many industries, but we won’t go there).
Here are my top five tips on things you can do as a small business owner to ensure that there isn’t a problem with your bookkeeper, and that you’ve made the best decision in engaging them.
- If you are registered for GST, you really should be engaging a BAS Agent, not just a bookkeeper. Our industry is regulated and anybody providing BAS services must be registered. We must hold a certain level of education and experience, professional indemnity insurance, continuing professional education, and comply with a code of conduct. A bookkeeper who is not a registered BAS Agent cannot advertise that they provide BAS services, and this includes installing accounting software and determining default GST codes, data entry and reconciliations to determine a BAS liability, filling in activity statements, and ascertaining withholding obligations. A bookkeeper who is not a registered BAS Agent may not have the appropriate qualifications to be working on your books – would you entrust your health to a ‘doctor’ who hasn’t put in the effort to get qualified?
- Have conversations with your bookkeeper about how things are going. You don’t need to know all the ins and outs of doing the data entry and reconciliations, but you should be able to read your Profit & Loss Statement and Balance Sheet at a basic level to know how things are going. If your bookkeeper cannot provide you with this information accurately and in a timely manner, there may be something wrong.
- Is your bookkeeper proactive? Super Stream is something that’s been coming for quite a few months. Has your bookkeeper informed you about your obligations? Have they assisted you to become Super Stream compliant?
- I visited a business today where the manager was having a problem with the bookkeeper, but couldn’t put his finger on exactly what the problem was. It took me less than five minutes to find some quite major mistakes in the MYOB file. This was without delving into much detail, but immediately I could see there were issues that will have monetary consequences for the client, and they’re quite basic things that should definitely have been taken care of. If your gut is telling you there’s something wrong, there probably is.
- You’ve gone into business because you’re passionate about something, and that’s your core business. The bookkeeping is important, but it’s not necessarily important that you do it yourself. Bookkeeping is about more than just entering the numbers and printing out a few reports. A good bookkeeper will look at systems and efficiencies that can be implemented to make the business side of things can run smoother and you can get on with what you’re passionate about. What systems and processes has your bookkeeper suggested or implemented into your business?
Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing bookkeepers out there and most of us are passionate about helping our clients with their business. But there are some that are still learning (and by all means give them a go, but be aware of their abilities), and some who just don’t give a dam.