Bookkeepers can sometimes be seen as being inferior to accountants.
Bookkeeping ranked a lowly 10 out of the top 10 roles finance employers are looking for in 2019 in the latest Hays Salary & Recruiting Trends 2019 survey.
A good bookkeeper, however, can make or break a business.
Get yourself a good bookkeeper
Zoe Whitman, founder of But The Books bookkeeping firm, says one of main benefits of getting a good bookkeeper on board is the fact that they can help give clients back precious time they should be spending on their business.
“As well as giving business owners back their time, we give them peace of mind that an expert is dealing with their finances,” she says.
“We add value by giving clients expert insight into their figures and the story their numbers are able to tell them. We also identify the statistics and trends which help business owners make financial decisions.”
Benefits to small businesses
Small businesses can, says Whitman, take opposing views to their finances, but bookkeepers can help get them back on track.
“Some clients bury their heads in the sand about their finances until a pressing year end or tax return deadline. Others immediately accept that it’s too important to get wrong and come to us within weeks of getting started,” she notes.
They recently worked with one client who had been self-employed for many years but had never established a bookkeeping process she could stick to.
“She was invoicing clients using a word document and email system, but had found it hard to keep track of who had and hadn’t paid her,” says Whitman.
“As well as setting her up with QuickBooks and showing her how to use it, we reconciled her invoices against her bank statement and chased up the £8,000 or so of invoices which we found were outstanding.”
Offering a different perspective
In addition to reclaiming the debt, Whitman says they helped their client look at things from a different perspective. “We helped give her a bigger picture of her finances, and a sense of relief that everything was now under control and in safe hands,” she notes.
A good bookkeeper should, says Whitman, tailor their services to the specific needs of the business.
“Some need support with monthly bookkeeping or tax returns, while others need help setting up a system to stay on top of their bookkeeping,” she notes.
“They need to know what they can record, what expenses they can claim, while others might need more specialist advisory support with budgeting, forecasting and projecting their future financial position.”
Seeing potential financial crisis
Bookkeepers can also help alert business owners to upcoming financial matters.
“If a client is concerned about their cashflow for the coming months, we can build a cashflow forecast and flex it so that the client can see what different business decisions could mean for their future bank balance,” Whitman says.
The difference between accountants and bookkeepers
Martin Atkins, partner at PKF Francis Clark accountancy firm, says people all too often presume accountants are also good bookkeepers, but that that is not always the case.
“We have taken steps in recent times to employ bookkeepers as well as offering a training programme for bookkeeping qualifications, as the digital evolution of the accounting world is driving us to do so. Training people in-house is much more cost effective,” he notes.
Rachael Cobb, accounts manager at Page Kirk finance firm says having a well-informed bookkeeper is paramount to running a successful business.
“It helps business owners make commercial decisions based upon live details of their profitability for the year,” she notes. “They can then award themselves remuneration alongside making commercial decisions to potentially change business strategy before it’s too late. It can also help when it comes to reviewing year on year budgets and understanding the peaks and troughs of the business,” Cobb says.
Appreciating the value of bookkeepers
Ben Rendle, director at BR Accounting, says however that many accountants still undervalue bookkeeping. “I think it’s undervalued because it’s often the traditional starting point for many accounting careers,” he notes.
“Therefore it is seen as an area where it is relatively easy to fill roles and train people (often school leavers) on the job.”
Investing in a good bookkeeper should, however, be seen as a proactive and preventative measure.
“It’s the financial equivalent to the flu jab,” says Rendle. “Whilst having it doesn’t mean you are protected from the flu virus, if you are unlucky enough to get flu, the effects will be lessened. So if you want problems flagged early get a good bookkeeper.”
If you’re just starting out on your bookkeeping journey, it’s good to know what to expect, and prepare yourself to offer the best possible service.
Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.