4 Tips on How to Hire a Small Business Bookkeeper

4 Tips on How to Hire a Small Business Bookkeeper

"Work on your business, not in your business" is one of most common bits of advice most small business owners hear. But what might that entail? Another thing small business owners are advised to do is to surround themselves with a trusted team. People that they can count on, bounce an idea off and assist with performing the day-to-day or monthly tasks of the business.

One common monthly task is the maintenance of the businesses financial books. Most small business owners try to manage and maintain their own books in a bid to save money. While others choose to do their own books as a way to maintain as much control of their business as possible. In many instances, these business owners end up becoming those that work in their business as opposed to working on their businesses. The bookkeeping becomes another thankless job they have to perform, with an over demanding ungrateful boss (themselves). The book E-myth talks about developing systems that allow the business to run as efficiently as possible without you. That, in a nutshell, is working on your business. Hiring out tasks that you may not be as well qualified to do allows you to start doing just that. If you do it right and institute a systematic framework, you will still be able to maintain control of the processes that you hire out.

So, how does a small business owner hire a bookkeeper? Here are four tips.

1. Ask Around

Small business owners should always be networking. Ask other small business owners within your network or even your accountant for a referral. Also, ask the local SCORE or SBDC (Small Business Development Center) whom they would recommend, as both organizations usually have a list of recommended bookkeepers.

2. Know What You Need and Want

Does the business need someone to maintain the financial books daily, monthly or quarterly? Does the business require a full-time or part-time bookkeeper? Do you prefer your bookkeeper to be in-house, local or virtual?

For most small business owners having done the books themselves (often unsuccessfully) they can honestly answer the above questions.

3. Interview Bookkeeping Candidates

The candidate's personality and work ethic is just as important as his/her experience and qualifications. Ask questions that relate to his/her communication skills (both written and verbal). This is important as the bookkeeper will not only be working with you but also potentially with your tax accountant.

Example questions to ask a potential bookkeeper:

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  • What accounting software are you most proficient with?
  • What prior experience do you have?
  • What industries have you worked in with regards to bookkeeping?
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4. Check References and Credentials

Checking references is essential, as you will be entrusting the bookkeeper with sensitive and confidential information (bank account number, customer data).

Sample reference questions to ask references:

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  • How long have you been working with the candidate?
  • What type of work was performed? How satisfied are/were you with the work performed?
  • How responsive is he/she with e-mail or phone calls?
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You should also ensure that the candidate has the correct credentials such as an Accounting degree or is a Certified Bookkeeper.

Additional Tips:

As a small business owner, it is crucial to know what monies are going in and out of your business. Make sure you have a working knowledge of your financial statements. I recommend that you write and sign your own checks in addition to examining all bills. These are some of the systemic checks and balances that should be placed to allow you to maintain control in your business.

Along with some of the things I have suggested, follow your gut and intuition when hiring a bookkeeper. This decision is as important as any other decisions in your business.

Lozelle Mathai, MBA, CFEI ~ CEO and Founder of Closing Your Books, LLC,  is a 15 year veteran in the corporate finance world, having worked in the banking industry and at Fortune 500 companies like Estee Lauder, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), Coach and Philip Van Heusen (PVH). She has had the opportunity to work at different positions at each of these multinational corporations in the accounting and finance departments. She brings these experiences to the business and personal finance world.