Finding & Managing an Outsourced Bookkeeper

Vintage adding machine

Why Outsource a Bookkeeper?

When considering how to handle the money flow for the business, outsourcing a bookkeeper is a smart use of funds for many small businesses. Outsourcing the books allows the owner to focus on driving the core business forward, while delegating the money process to someone that is very skilled in that niche. No need to train an employee; no need to remember important payments. An experienced outsourced bookkeeper already has deep knowledge of the processes, and can bring that experience directly to the operation. This bookkeeper will bring industry best practices directly in to your business. Since bookkeeping is a defined skill, it’s also advantageous to find an office administrator that can help drive revenue through sales and production support (very custom work flow), and have the bookkeeping done by a specialist. Further, in many small businesses, there isn’t enough bookkeeping work to justify hiring a full time employee. An insourced administrator that works with the outsourced bookkeeper is a fantastic combination.

There are several good reasons to find an outsourced bookkeeper  (here is another list).

  • Perpetual systems that last beyond an employee
  • Daily and weekly work stays focused on your financials
  • An outsourced team member is not driven by the paycheck if difficult cash decisions are necessary
  • Deep industry skills have honed their ability to communicate well with your CPA or tax preparation firm
  • An ability to present financial data without personal emotion involved.

A final big advantage to outsourcing this department is the use of GAAP accounting standards. GAAP refers to specific rules for documentation and flow of your financial processes, and applying them to your financial department, no matter how big or small. If (when) administrative attrition happens, you still have solid financial systems that continue as usual. A bookkeeping firm will bring a system that lasts beyond a single employee. So, let’s find that outsourced bookkeeper!

How Do You Find A Bookkeeper? Where Do You Find A Bookkeeper?

Finding the keeper of your money will include a broad ask to people you know. It will begin much like an employee search, but more likely to come from a referral. Consider a broad ask across many of your networks, including:

  • Your CPA, business attorney, insurance broker (these are networked people!);
  • Social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter);
  • Peers in your industry (if they have outsourced, they know someone);
  • Friends;
  • Employees;
  • Industry Organizations;
  • Professional Clubs or Networking Groups;
  • Google “bookkeeper [my city]”.

Looking for outsourced bookkeeper (FB)

Example of a Facebook ask for bookkeepers. Just ask, your network will help you.

Be careful about asking from highly personal relationships: you don’t want to end up with unqualified resumes of people that are difficult for you to refuse. Managing the business money is a critical area, for many reasons. (obviously!) This is also the work of Fisher. If you’re so inclined, we’d love to interview for the job!  Set a time here.

Delegate to your bookkeeper

How Do You Choose The Right Bookkeeper?

Now that you have found some candidates, you need to interview. Remember, this is an expert vendor. This should not feel like an employee interview, they are also interviewing you. It is important that you have a connection, and you trust what they are saying. This is not the time for a Yes-Woman; this is the time for an expert. You should be hearing them suggest tips for success.  This is the beginning of the conversation, it should feel like you are building a relationship. In my experience, when the fit is right, we start talking about specific challenges in the business. We may even look at the software tools.

Before the interview, keep a note of duties or projects that you want to unload or projects you see. It’s nice to have a conversation starter, and your list may be just the right place since it matters to you. You can also download this worksheet of questions and duties.

Your outsourced bookkeeper should treat you like the successful business that you are. If you are left feeling like someone is talking down to you or will not give you a straight answer, move along. They are a vendor, and you are the customer.

To help you with this interview and selection process, we have included a list of tasks to discuss and interview questions. Print these to keep your conversation moving. You do not need to discuss confidential information before you’re ready.

How Much Should You Pay Your Outsourced Bookkeeper?

Like any specialist, there are varying rates for varying levels of experience. In general, you can plan on the following chart:

Role Responsibilities Motivation Rate Range*
CFO Forward development Building a profitable business to a plan $150-$350
Controller Cash flow management Bills are current & paid, employees are happy $100-$250
Bookkeeper Reconcile everything Balanced work, everything ties $40-$100
Clerk Data entry Accurate work, in box is done Up to $50

      *This was written in Portland, Oregon in January, 2018.

How Do I Manage an Outsourced Bookkeeper without doing the work myself? 

This is easier for some than others, given that it’s people management of a vendor. Start by prepping a better question than “how is it going?”. I really want you to hear more than, “Fine.” Fine give you no information about your business. Consider the following stop-in questions:

  • Can you provide me with some useful reports before you go today? Just give me what you think is good.
  • Can you see where we are wasting money? Any red flags?
  • Are you going to finish everything today?
  • Any questions for me? Do you have everything you need to get reports done / checks cut / [name that deliverable]?
  • When can we meet to review the books for last month? [prep for taxes, sort out profit sharing, close for the investors, etc.]

If your bookkeeper has been around for a while, consider this list to be sure they are keeping up with everything. This is also good work before the end of the year.

Small Business Success and Growth

Moving Forward with the Best Outsourced Bookkeeper

  • You have found a firm that feels like a good fit;
  • They have a plan of action, and they are driecting you about needs they have;
  • Together, you have organized the schedule of duties for the whole team; (Download that table of duties here, and also get interview questions!)
  • You have sorted out a good pay rate, and a budget for the work you need;
  • You know what questions to ask your new bookkeeper when you see them;
  • Everyone has milestones for growth: closing, tax solutions, growth goals, etc.;

You’re ready to grow the business, and measure financial results along the way. Best wishes! If I can be of any further help, please be in touch!

About the Author Barb Fisher

Barb is the CEO of Fisher Bookkeeping, an outsourced bookkeeping consultancy that provides small businesses with a full-service financial department. Her favorite aspect of work is to break down the accounting to meaningful bits, so entrepreneurs can make a powerful difference in their own business. She's also a power lifter (squat: 215, DL: 270).

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