8 things to look for when selecting a bookkeeper to collaborate with

Accounting firms often work with bookkeepers to provide full service offerings for their clients, but there are many things to consider before committing to a collaboration.

With so many accounting firms practising in the industry along with the tough market we’re currently operating in, there’s never been a more crucial time to expand your services to stay ahead of competitors. Accounting firms should reach out to local bookkeeping firms to offer their clients professional bookkeeping services, retaining existing client base as well as attracting new leads.

While there are numerous bookkeeping firms operating, it can be difficult to know what to look for when selecting the right bookkeeping relationship for your business.

There are several things to consider when selecting the right bookkeeper to partner with your business. I’ve highlighted the main points below:

1. ABN Search

Do an ABN search on the provider. Are they registered for GST? If not, it indicates their turnover is below $75,000 and they are not lodging Business Activity Statements for their own business.

Are they a sole trader or are they are set up as a company or a trust? No ownership structure is better or worse than the other, but gives you the chance to test their understanding of different accounting principles and why they chose the particular one they set their own business up with. 

If the bookkeeper is a sole trader and/or not registered for GST, it could imply that they are not running an actual bookkeeping business and perhaps more like a hobby or just some sideline income to supplement paid employment elsewhere. This would imply they are operating on a small scale and would not have the capacity to provide services to your large and expanding client base.

2. Sole Operator

Are they a sole operator or do they have staff? What happens when they take annual leave, fall sick, or have an on-site meeting with a client? Being uncontactable is not good for your business or your clients. In today’s fast-paced business environment, your clients often need to make instant decisions that require a quick response from their accountant or bookkeeper. Having access to a team can provide peace of mind that someone will be there when needed, and that your growing base of clients can be catered for.

If they don’t have a team it is a good opportunity to ask what happens in this situation. Generally, how they answer is more important than the answer itself and shows they have thought about it previously. 

3. Relationships

Do they have good relationships with other business service providers, such as lawyers, insurance brokers and finance professionals? As your business grows and expands, you are going to need introductions to other professionals along the way. Make sure you deal with a bookkeeping company that has a good network of trusted professionals who they can then introduce and refer to help you in your own journey.

4. Cloud Integrators

The role of a bookkeeper has changed and expanded over time, and so have the demands of clients. They need to be able to assist your business beyond the traditional bookkeeping tasks. Can they set up an integrated point of sale system with your bookkeeping package? Do you need assistance with a CRM, inventory management, automating debt collection, rostering or submitting timesheets? Choose a bookkeeping firm that provides services above and beyond regular bookkeeping tasks. They can help your accounting business to grow and expand along other avenues by continually providing additional services that your clients may require.

5. Cloud Based

The days of desktop software are over. The bookkeeping company that you partner with needs to be up-to-date with the latest cloud programs. If they are not using software such as Xero, Quickbooks Online (QBO) or MYOB Essentials, then they are using outdated software which is going to slow your business down and inhibit growth. Using cloud-based software makes communication between the bookkeepers, your accountants and your clients streamlined. The bookkeepers can complete their tasks, accountants can access the data from any location, which can then be used to present clients with real-time data on any device.

6. Marketing

A bookkeeping firm that you choose to partner with should be more than just a number cruncher; they are an asset to your business. They need to understand how to run a business themselves. Do they have a well-presented website and brand? Is it obvious that they have invested in strategies to increase their exposure, including SEO and PPC advertising, or attend business networking events? A bookkeeping firm who has built their own successful business will be able to share their experiences and thus guide you to grow your business and attract more customers.

7. Fixed Fees

A good bookkeeper knows how long a job will take due to carrying out the tasks endless times before, and so will be able to offer you fixed fees. This is crucial as you want to be able to offer a fixed fee to your clients, and know that you will still be making a profit rather than having to cover addition fees that may crop up. If a bookkeeping firm is only offering hourly rates, it makes it difficult for you to quote your clients, which may result in the partnership not working.

Hourly fees are not a deal breaker, but another opportunity to start a dialogue on how their fee structure works so you can better foster the relationship with clients you are referring. 

8. Mobile or Landline

Do they have mobile number or just a landline? Ideally you would want more than one point of contact with them or their staff to ensure there are no bottlenecks if someone is unreachable.

If you are dealing with just a mobile number, it can sometimes mean that they work from home rather than being based in an office. You want a professional who has their undivided attention in ensuring your business is functioning profitably and reaching its fullest potential and working from home can sometimes result in being distracted or having other tasks prioritised above your work.

This is not good when you are relying on the bookkeeper completing tasks with their undivided attention to ensure your clients receive the highest level of professionalism.

Summary

If you are considering collaborating with a bookkeeper, make sure you refer to these points when discussing your needs with a potential bookkeeping partner.

They should be a trusted professional who has the growth of your business and the interests of your clients as their priority.

At the end of the day, the work they carry out represents your business, so you need to know you can trust the bookkeeper to complete work to the highest standard.

***Editor's note*** This piece has been changed since initial publication. 

 

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