CF Saskatchewan Blog

10 Essential Conversations to Have With Your Bookkeeper

  • March 21, 2018
  • Written by Community Futures Saskatchewan

For many entrepreneurs, their strengths lie in promoting their products or services and building their businesses, not necessarily maintaining their books and reconciling bank statements. That’s where a capable bookkeeper comes in handy; they have the experience, knowledge, and time to track your accounts receivable (A/R) and accounts payable (A/P).

Just as importantly, they can ensure that your payroll is done correctly and in a timely manner. Before they can best serve you, though, you both have to be on the same page. Whether you’re searching for a bookkeeper or are currently working with one, these are the 10 discussions that you should have to ensure that your small business receives the attention it deserves.

  1. Are you licensed and/or certified?

Bookkeepers don’t have to be licensed or certified, but many small business owners prefer bookkeepers who hold degrees in accounting or bookkeeping and maybe even additional licenses or certificates. Two examples of this include the Certified Professional Bookkeeper designation through the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada or the Registered Professional Bookkeeper license through the Canadian Bookkeepers Association.

  1. Do you have experience working with small businesses in my industry?

Some financial professionals excel at working with large companies with teams of accountants and bookkeepers, but that doesn’t mean that they can perform as well in other professional environments. Small businesses have unique needs, and some companies in complex industries require thorough knowledge about complicated tax laws. Ensuring that your potential or current bookkeeper understands those needs and laws—and has experience addressing them—is key to success.

Bonus Tip: Are you falling victim to 6 common money-related beliefs that often prevent entrepreneurs from succeeding?

  1. Can I speak to your references?  

Because this person will have intimate access to your small business’ finances and bank accounts, they must be trustworthy. Speaking with a bookkeepers’ former or current clients will give you a sense of how it is to work with them, identify their potential strengths and challenges, and assess whether you can trust them with your company’s most important information.

  1. What kind of services do you offer?

Would he or she process payroll, simply help to import the payroll data into your system, or not be involved with payroll at all? Does the bookkeeping service partner with an accountant to manage taxes or would they work with your accountant of choice? These questions can determine the scope of your bookkeeper’s services and understand exactly how they could help your small business become more successful.

In general, a capable bookkeeper will handle common accounting duties. This could include:

  • Recording financial transactions
  • Tracking bank feeds (for instance, matching bank deposits to customer accounts in order to organize A/R)
  • Managing A/R and A/P
  • Paying bills

However, they may go above and beyond these foundational duties—be sure to discuss the scope of their services to find out.

  1. What would I be responsible for?

Think of this conversation as part two of the question above. Once you understand what your bookkeeper is responsible for, clarify what you would be responsible for tackling. For example, would you need to reach out to customers regarding invoice payment or would your bookkeeper need to set up an automatic reminder system? Would certain processes need your approval, such as bill payment?

  1. Can you explain your pricing and fees?

One thing to include in your small business budget is the cost of hiring your bookkeeper… and like any other company cost, you should understand a breakdown of expenses. Ask potential bookkeepers or your current financial professional to explain their pricing so you know where your money is going, and whether you should expect additional fees.

Bonus Tip: Need financing to take your small business to the next level? Uncover the secret to receiving small business loans.

  1. How do you bill clients?

Monthly versus biweekly invoices, online credit card payments or paper checks—bookkeepers can be paid in a variety of ways. Be sure to ask about their billing processes and arrange a system that works for both of you. 

  1. How do you communicate, and how often should we meet?

If you prefer to communicate over the phone and they only touch base over email, this might cause some friction. Get on the same page from the get-go to proactively avoid any miscommunications! Also, don’t forget to chat about how often you should expect to meet up for important financial discussions. For example, perhaps you should schedule a recap meeting on both of your calendars every 30 days to cover the previous month’s activity.  

  1. What kind of bookkeeping systems do you use? How can we set up secure access?

An efficient expense tracking system can help you better manage cash flow, collect invoices, pay bills on time, and estimate profitability. Sometimes bookkeepers have a preferred system for financial tracking, such as QuickBooks Online, which may be an issue if you’re devoted to a different software. Or, you might not have a system in place at all, in which case the bookkeeper would have to develop one for you.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that having the “bookkeeping system” conversation is better done earlier rather than later. Afterward, bring up the topic of establishing secure access, such as creating a bookkeeper user account that gives them access to certain system functionalities (such as tracking cash flow) but prevents contact with areas that you’d prefer they not go, like unlimited access to your small business bank account.

  1. Can you help me if I get audited?

Last but not least: audits. Your small business may find itself the subject of an audit by the Canadian government at one point or another, which can require quite a bit of attention and record-pulling. Will your bookkeeper be able to help with things like compiling profit and loss (P&L) reports? Do they have any experience working with auditors? Although we hope you never have to deal with an audit, it’s always best to be prepared just in case.

Working with a knowledgeable bookkeeper can make your year-end that much easier—and so can our complimentary tax e-book.

 Download your copy of “Tackling Tax Time With Ease: 6 Ways to Make Your Year-End a Smooth and Seamless Process” for free right now!