In the course of our hectic lives, we rarely have time to register this one question as we interact with countless people performing a job or service for us: how qualified are they?
We assume the cook at the restaurant washed his hands properly, the taxi driver knows where he’s going, that our to-go order is perfect as we grab the bag.
We need to put some things at the back of our minds, even when those little concerns cross our minds, because if we thought about them nonstop, we’d go nuts.
When it comes to most little things, even things that infuriate us, we can accept the risk of imperfection because, at the end of the day, they come and go.
We may not be happy at the time, but we can deal with it.
For the most part, our trust is not misplaced.
These people get paid to do a job, they may have trained for years, they may have worked for their credentials, and, of course, people generally don’t want to get fired for messing up.
So, more often than not, we’re satisfied.
But there are some risks we shouldn’t be willing to take when we’re in business.
While it may be easy to overlook the fact that our barista forgot to use skim milk in our chai latte, annoyed though we may be, it’s much harder to live with consequences to decisions that affect our businesses.
When we’re swamped with the daily demands of running our business, it can be easy to forget to ask questions of the people we choose to be part of our operations.
We try to make it easier on ourselves.
Use the people our friends use, or the service that the office next door recommends.
Even when it comes to choosing a bookkeeper.
You relationship with your bookkeeper should be a special one.
A regular bookkeeper can really help you take care of your business by getting to know you, how you operate, and what’s important to you, such as any future planning you want to do.
Not all bookkeepers are created equally.
Not all are certified, and not all of them may have the formal education you assume they would.
Some work for firms, others from their homes.
If you’re in the market for a bookkeeper, this list can help you find one who has the right qualifications.
Just as a bookkeeper who is not so qualified or attentive could potentially put you in a bad situation, a great bookkeeper can be an invaluable asset.
Let’s get started!
1: If you ask for referrals, ask the right people.
When looking for a bookkeeper, the easiest way to find one is to ask friends, family, or colleagues.
Someone who doesn’t know bookkeeping is really not a qualified judge of how good they are.
An accountant, however, would know if a bookkeeper is worth their salt.
If you insist on going with a bookkeeper recommended by a friend or colleague, find an accountant who is familiar with them and get a second opinion.
2: Go certified.
The IPBC certifies bookkeepers in Canada, so look for bookkeepers with the professional suffix C.P.B. after their name.
Certified bookkeepers are required to take regular exams and update their education regularly in order to keep their credentials, so you can be confident you’re choosing from the best.
3: Continuing education.
Don’t be afraid to ask about how often they update their training or stay on top of new tax laws.
They should be able to produce some proof of ongoing training and demonstrate a knowledge of what’s current.
4: They know somebody who knows.
If you’re looking at a bookkeeper who works with others at a firm, you’re probably golden.
For home-based bookkeepers or those who work alone, ask about their supports.
If they don’t know the answers, if they need something double-checked, who will they ask? Are they just going to guess? Refer to an outdated book?
I ran a bookkeeping firm of fifteen, and every day, one of us asked someone else a question.
You’re bound to see something in someone’s books you’ve never encountered before, or a write off that could be claimed several ways.
If a bookkeeper has no support system of any kind, think twice.
5: They don’t push back.
A good bookkeeper will communicate, tell you if there’s something missing or a document they need.
You shouldn’t have to give them instructions.
If there’s a lack of communication, it could be an indication they’re not putting much brain muscle into it.
6: They protect you from harm.
A good bookkeeper will speak up if they see a violation or a problem in your books.
They learn from other clients’ errors and omissions, which lends to their growing experience.
So things like over-costed items – such as you paying an extra thousand for insurance over other clients – will be brought to your attention.
7: Don’t hate the player when you hate the game.
If your bookkeeper tells you something you don’t like, think about it before reaching a conclusion or assuming they’re wrong.
If a bookkeeper is certified, they’re almost guaranteed to be right.
A good bookkeeper will also look out for you, and that might mean warning you about something or giving you an answer that you don’t want.
Is it really the bookkeeper you don’t like, or the answer, or the options?
8: They’re serious about privacy and security.
Whether they work from home or in an office, don’t be afraid to ask your bookkeeper how they’re going to protect your data.
If a home-based bookkeeper uses a laptop for everything, what would happen if it were stolen?
Where is your information stored? Is it a shared computer? Are there backups and anti-hacking software systems in place?
Remember: your data is confidential, especially payroll, meaning you could be liable for compromising that security.
9: They have errors and omissions insurance in place.
Finding a great bookkeeper probably won’t be hard if you know what to look for, and what questions to ask.
It can bring you real peace of mind when you know someone has your back.
They’re designed to educate and guide Canadian entrepreneurs through the tax maze, keep their books like a pro, and maximize their bottom line.