What Qualities Make For A Good Bookkeeper?
This blog recently examined where the responsibility for a business’s bookkeeping actually lay, and whether you do your own bookkeeping or contract it out, you should be aware of what qualities actually make a bookkeeper a good one.
Here, in no particular order of importance, are what I believe to be the qualities possessed by all good bookkeepers:
- Organisational skills
Given the nature of the work, you would want your bookkeeper to have superb organisations skills. They should be able to manage their time and workload in a manner whereby they are responsive to all their clients’ needs and are able to retrieve information and accounts very quickly as and when required.
A quality that’s welcome in all employees or contractors. You would want your bookkeeper to feel invested in the work that you give them and expect to process, working to the best of their ability to meet your business’s bookkeeping needs.
Obviously, this is all subject to what particular service level agreement you have put in place with your bookkeeper (you can’t expect someone to carry out services you are not paying them for) but you are in the right to expect a certain level of proactivity from them on your behalf. Anyone who is looking to work very strictly within the parameters of your contract with them is not necessarily going to go the extra mile for you when you really need them to.
- An understanding of your business
A good bookkeeper would spend time to get to know your business, in terms of what products and services it offers, and the type of customers or clients you deal with. Not only will it give them a better understanding of your invoicing needs (if they’re going to be doing the invoicing on your behalf) but it will give them a knowledge that may help solve accounting anomalies as and when they arise.
- An exceptional memory
While you can’t expect a bookkeeper to have immediate total recall, it is a great advantage to employ one with an exceptional memory and an attention to detail. If you have to address a historical accounting matter, having a bookkeeper on your side who can remember all the surrounding circumstances of a particular payment or invoice can be incredibly handy.
- Familiarity with new technology
Good bookkeeping is not inherently reliant on being able to use modern technology (in theory, a pencil and a ledger book could suffice). However, the modern world is reliant on modern technology and there are many legitimate accounting programs (such as Prelude Accounts) that can save your bookkeeper time and can improve the associated processes within your business.
If a bookkeeper is charging you according to their time, you should query with them what processes they are using; you could needlessly be paying over the odds. Also, modern technology can consolidate processes (invoicing and updating your books, for example) as well as provide the reassurance of automatic backups. A bookkeeper should be moving with the times and be using the technology and processes that you want them to use.
- Professional, polite demeanour
Many people use their bookkeepers to chase up late payments or to contact suppliers, and it is therefore important that they can be personable on the ‘phone or via written correspondence, projecting a professional demeanour that reflects well on your business’s brand.
- A basic understanding of accountancy and new developments in the sector
A bookkeeper cannot offer all the services an accountant or accountancy firm can, but there is an overlap between the two. A good bookkeeper would have half an eye on developments within the accountancy sector, and should be able to adapt their processes accordingly as well as flag with you issues that may require the attention of a professional accountant.
While basic bookkeeping does not require a bookkeeper to have previous experience or qualifications, you are best off with someone with a tangible track record of bookkeeping elsewhere or someone who has sought suitable qualifications, especially from a respected body such as the IAB (the International Association of Bookkeepers).
As already mentioned, technology plays an important part in the modern office, so not only is it desirable for a bookkeeper to be familiar with accounting software (and preferably more than one type), they should also be able to use (with great proficiency) spreadsheet programs such as Excel and possibly CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems so they can dovetail their work into your business’s other processes.
The above is very much an idealised wish list of qualities I would expect from a bookkeeper (you’re unlikely to get someone with all these qualities, especially at the lower end of the market) but it is important to have high expectations from someone in such a role, and to have those expectations to a greater, rather than a lesser, degree.