Accounting is an industry that has gradually drifted toward an online business model. Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend and forced most business owners to forgo the use of in-house or in-person local bookkeepers. While this transition may not have been comfortable for everyone, it is a trend that is likely here to stay. It is also great news for small business owners who want professional financial guidance for a lower overall cost.
Let’s be clear, the experience of this pandemic has left almost all of us with a painful void of human connection. We all miss the experience of in-person conversations, brainstorming sessions, and coffee meetings with the people we work with. Bookkeepers and accountants, in particular, are one of the few advisory relationships almost every business owner has. The question we are all asking, and this applies to many facets of business today: are we really ready to move that relationship entirely online or will we go back to the way things were?
Before COVID, it was always assumed that in-house or local bookkeepers charge more because they have the ability to keep a more watchful eye on your business. Business owners were happy to pay a premium to someone who could maintain a stronger relationship to their business. In 2020, that idea changed with our increasing comfort level working from anywhere. As we get more accustomed to videoconferencing, online banking and new accounting technology, remote bookkeepers can provide the same, if not better, professional service. Not everyone does this well, but there are a few basic rules remote bookkeepers should follow to give business owners maximum value.
First Impressions are Everything
Almost every bookkeeper, whether remote or in-house, finds onboarding new clients to be a particularly challenging part of his or her job. Use the experience as a litmus test of things to come. If you feel confused, misinformed, or generally lost during the onboarding process, chances are you may feel the same way during your regular service. By contrast, if your experience is well-organized and lacking major surprises, you can be more assured you have hired a competent business partner. The difference is the amount of work and automation done ahead of time. A remote bookkeeper should put in extra time to understand your technology, ensure the lines of communication are well established and work with you to make the bookkeeping process as efficient and effective as possible. This increased efficiency is a huge advantage to hiring a remote bookkeeper.
You Deserve Explanations
Many business owners receive regular financial statements but don’t always know what to do with them. Financial statements provide little value if all you use them for is annual meetings with your banker and tax preparers. There is a story in your numbers and a qualified bookkeeper should be willing to explain the plot and what they believe will happen in the future. It’s also important to remember the conversation about your numbers goes both ways. There may be plot holes in the story that only the business owner is able to explain. This was traditionally accomplished by an in-person office visit, but today’s remote bookkeepers can have these same conversations via Zoom, screen share, or other audio/visual technology. If your bookkeeper is willing to take regular time, at least once per month, to talk through these and other questions, they are going to take much better care of your business.
Find the Frequency That Works for Your Business
Finding a well-qualified bookkeeper will do little good if your numbers aren’t timely updated. Some choose to hold off and wait until the end of the month to work on your accounts since information like credit card statements arrive monthly. If you are just starting out or own a business with a low level of financial activity, getting monthly numbers may be appropriate. However, if a bookkeeper waits until the work piles up at the end of the month, delays are more likely to occur.
Other more established businesses need more consistent attention to their numbers. Having weekly or bi-weekly reporting and reconciliations will better serve businesses with a high volume of transactions. You may also need more attention if you have weekly or bi-weekly payroll activity, regular staff meetings, and/or periodic meetings with bankers, CPAs, and other business advisors. This good news is, this can be accomplished just as easily, if not faster, with a remote bookkeeper. Rather than pay someone to make multiple visits to your office every month, you can provide secure online access to most online bank accounts, credit cards and payroll systems. With a set of eyes on your numbers, multiple times per month, you will be less likely to wait on reports and always prepared with the data you need.
ABOUT FIRM NUMBERS
Firm Numbers provides small business owners bookkeeping and financial reporting designed to help you make better management decisions. Firm Numbers offers flat-fee monthly service packages to address the pain points of law firms and professional service providers nationwide.
- Weekly bookkeeping to ensure timely delivery of your numbers
- Enhanced reporting to provide additional management insight
- Service teams lead by former law firm CFOs and Business Advisors
Our goal is to help you be the boss, not the bookkeeper. We pull you out of reactive decision-making based on emotion and provide the necessary tools to objectively run your business.