A bookkeeper can be one of the most important hires your organization ever makes. A good bookkeeper can keep you on the straight and narrow. A bad one can take you off the rails.
There are key skills and attributes you should look for when hiring a bookkeeper; here are 10 of the most important:
- Experience – A good bookkeeper can be the glue that holds an organization together. It is critically important that he/she have experience in bookkeeping for an organization of similar size and complexity to yours. You should also look for someone who has worked in a firm at a similar point in their business lifecycle. For example, the bookkeeping needs of a high-growth start up could be radically different from that of a 30-year-old construction company. An experienced bookkeeper should be able to think ahead and anticipate needs before they arise. They should have experience with your industry and understand its unique bookkeeping requirements.
- Training and education – A good bookkeeper should be educated and trained and have a high degree of business acumen. While a master’s degree may not be appropriate, it is important that they understand basic business accounting and finance. A bookkeeper should have training and keep abreast of changes to accounting rules and procedures that directly affect their role.
- Aptitude for technology – Unless your company is stuck in the 20th century, you should be using a software system to keep your company financials and manage your books. The right bookkeeper should be trained and have experience using your bookkeeping/accounting software. They should be adept at using other common tools such as Microsoft Excel and any industry-specific systems you have (e.g. estimating, billing systems.) They should be able to process online payments; and perform bank reconciliations.
- Attention to detail – By the nature of the role, a bookkeeper must have a keen attention to detail. They should have an ability to identify errors and balance accounts on the fly. They should be able to generate timely and accurate financial reports that are clear and concise.
- Credit and cash flow management experience – One of the most important skills a bookkeeper should possess is the ability to keep on top of cash flow and to anticipate cash flow requirements. Factors such as business seasonality, taxes, bonuses and recurring annual events must be considered when determining cash flow needs. The bookkeeper must be able to balance all of these requirements to maintain business stability
A bookkeeper should also know how to appropriately use credit during periods when cash flow is low. Controlling debt expenses must all be factored and an experienced bookkeeper should look for the most favorable rates and terms for credit.
- Tax preparation and planning – Your bookkeeper should know how to get your company prepared for tax season. They should know the applicable tax deadlines for items such as quarterly tax estimates. They should know how to keep books and receipts well organized for tax seasons as well as audits. While it is advisable to use an accountant to prepare your corporate taxes, a bookkeeper plays a vital role in getting an organization ready.
Hiring a bookkeeper can be one of the most important decisions you make for your small business.