In the state of Washington, because bookkeepers are not required to be licensed, it is challenging to know who to hire. There is no exam to take to officially call oneself a bookkeeper. Worst of all, most business owners don’t make a bookkeeper prove their worthiness before giving them the job. Owners often don’t know how to reliably hire quality people, and this contributes to embezzlement being common. Due to lack of regulation, literally, almost anybody can say they’re a bookkeeper and get control of your books. In fact, some “bookkeepers” apply specifically because they intend to defraud you.
One of the basic philosophies of business ownership is having the right amount of control in the right places. One of those places is obviously with money. There’s a common point-of-view that says “do not give the ability for someone to steal from you”. Unfortunately, as a company grows larger, it becomes easier for people to steal because you start to lose control of the ability to micro-monitor everything. But most businesses don’t have that problem. Most businesses are small enough that as the owner of the company, you can set up systems that make it very difficult to steal. What is unfortunate is that it takes time to set up those systems, and most owners don’t have the time, education, or sufficient motivation. If you’re not going to take the time to put systems in place to make sure people cannot steal from you, and you’re going to put unlicensed, low-paid people in charge of the financial health of your company, then that’s a pretty big risk.
Though there are some organizations that certify people as bookkeepers, it’s not the same thing as being licensed. The state doesn’t require you to be licensed to use the word bookkeeper, so you really never know what you’re getting into until that person starts doing the job. Even if they are trustworthy, and they smile, and they’re nice to you, and even have a good heart, none of that matters if they don’t know how to take care of the financial health of your company. That is called a good person in the wrong position, which is another fundamental ailment in organizations.
There is no formal education for business owners on how to hire a good bookkeeper or what it means to be a good bookkeeper. Some business owners are a bit jaded when it comes to bookkeepers, because it’s so hard to find a good one. Sometimes, that inconsistency forces business owners to do the books themselves, even though they know they shouldn’t be.
At the same time, there’s just something we, as owners, enjoy about having our hands on the money. If being the owner and the default CFO is taking time away from other responsibilities to the business you have, that can cause issues. If it’s somehow using up your precious free time that you could be spending enjoying the fruits of your labor, then you want to think about the potential value of having somebody else be responsible for the economic reporting and forecasting.
Many businesses do not grow because they don’t have the money to grow. In 99% of the cases, the owner is the best salesperson the company has. If they are being distracted from selling their products or services and from growing the business because they’re doing the books (or any other task you could easily hire out for), a simple calculation can show what that’s costing them.
While it can take weeks or even months to get a business caught up to the current, in many businesses, the ongoing responsibilities of a bookkeeper can be done in a few hours a month. We offer our basic bookkeeping starting at $149/month. Compare what that would cost you to the number of hours you’ll gain to focus on sales, marketing, and operations.
While a good bookkeeper will make sure you don’t overspend on payroll and that you know
which one of your sales and marketing efforts are producing, you don’t want just a good bookkeeper, you want a great one. A great one can deliver every answer to every question you have about the finances of your business, help with licensing issues, setup CRM, point of sale, and merchant accounts, etc… A great bookkeeper will also be able to tell you statistics on your marketing campaigns and the percentages of your payroll to your gross compared to the industry average, among other key performance indicators.
Don’t kid yourself into believing that no one can do the books as well as you. Nearly every qualified bookkeeper can do the books as well as you. It’s true in some industries, the books are more complicated due to the volume of transactions or the number of divisions a company has, but a true professional, someone who is an accountant doing bookkeeping, they can do it. Bookkeepers know how to enter transactions, balance statements, prepare returns, and print checks. Most business owners are behind in bookkeeping and aren’t doing these four things accurately or timely.
Don’t be afraid to hire a bookkeeper, but do your research, background checks, skill evaluations, and hire someone who is there for you and will act in your best interest.