It seems like working with any kind of vendor for your business is often a gamble.
Whether you're trying to find the right contractor to help fix up your office space, a marketing consultant that can give you actual actionable advice and insights, or a bookkeeper that can bring clarity to your business, it's often hit or miss. Sure, we can check Google and Yelp for reviews to see the experience of others and we can certainly listen to the salesperson's pitch about helping to solve our problem, but how do you know you're hiring the right vendor for the job?
The truth is, finding the right vendor is all about asking the right questions. If you know what to ask, you can get a deeper understanding of what it's going to be like to work together!
For example, finding a great, reliable local bookkeeper in Orange County, California, can be incredibly difficult. Even more, an amazing virtual bookkeeper that's going to bring clarity to your business can feel impossible to find!
To make the search easier, get an understanding of how your bookkeeper will work by uncovering the answers to the following five questions.
1. Does my bookkeeper have a specialty?
Businesses are not built to serve everybody. In fact, some of the most successful, profitable, and efficient businesses focus on serving a specific customer niche! Whether you're a real estate agent, a general contractor, or a dog photographer, there are specific challenges and attributes of your business that make it unique. The right bookkeeper will understand the complexities and challenges that come with a business like yours and be able to speak into it.
If it's not clear whether your bookkeeper has a specific focus or specialty, it's important to ask! It can be as simple as asking, "have you worked with a business like mine before?", or, "what are some of the challenges that you've seen working with a business in [your industry]?"
Now, keep in mind that not all businesses are built on an industry-specific specialty. In fact, some choose to focus on an area of service! If you're searching for a bookkeeper in Huntington Beach, for example, they may be choosing to only work with businesses in Surf City.
Put simply, what you should be trying to uncover is whether or not you're going to be well served by your virtual or local bookkeeper.
2. Are they proactive or reactive?
Your business is not built overnight; it takes years and years of hard work, skill, and some luck to create a successful company! One of the largest contributors to success is the ability to anticipate problems and proactively implement solutions.
In the service industry, there are two categories when it comes to planning for and working with a small business: you're either proactive or reactive.
Being proactive means that your bookkeeper is actively anticipating challenges and hurdles that may arise from your financial position. They actively help you forecast and think about the future. Whether it's the intricacies of hiring a new employee, moving offices, or expanding into a new area of business, a proactive advisor can help you build your business more effectively while bringing up areas of concern that you may not have foreseen.
In contrast, a reactive vendor is one that simply adapts to new information when they receive it. Instead of looking ahead and planning for the future, they're simply focused on what's going on in the business in a more immediate timeframe. Reactive bookkeepers typically offer a transactional service; you simply give them the information that they need and receive a clean set of books. Instead of forming a deeper relationship and helping to inform your decision-making, you're left to interpret your financial story on your own.
The downside of reactivity is clear: your business is constantly changing and new challenges arise all the time! You need someone who's going to provide insight and advice before you need it rather than after it's too late.
3. Does my bookkeeper work closely with my CPA or tax preparer?
The accounting industry has done an unfortunate job of educating the world about what accountants actually do! Most people think of all accountants as simply dealing with taxes, but that's actually not the case; accountants do so many different jobs! From bookkeeping to tax preparation, it's rare to find a firm that offers excellent service on every accounting-related topic under the sun.
Instead, your tax preparer and bookkeeper should fill different roles in your business: a bookkeeper should be working to help you achieve a deeper understanding of your business's financial story, whereas your tax professional should help you implement effective tax-saving strategies through proactive planning and preparing!
In short, your bookkeeper and tax professional can work closely to improve your business from both a financial perspective as well as a tax perspective!
If your bookkeeper doesn't have an existing relationship with a wide range of tax professionals or isn't willing to connect with your existing one, they may not be the best choice for building an effective team of vendors.
4. Will they help me understand or fix my accounting system?
The lifeblood of every business is twofold: cash and accounting.
Think about it, though! A business needs cash to exist and function normally. You've got to be able to pay people and ensure that you're making money. Accounting is the function of understanding the cash that comes into your business, where it goes, and how it performs. A fantastic accounting system ensures that your business runs smoothly, enables better decision-making, and allows you to formulate and track realistic goals!
The problem is that most people really don't understand accounting.
Does that sound familiar? Maybe you grew up hating math. Maybe things like Profit and Loss never made sense to you, but you're really good at bringing money into the business regardless.
An excellent bookkeeper, whether they're local to you or virtual, is going to build an accounting structure that's clear and concise while also educating you on how to read your financials. Once an incredible bookkeeper has tuned up your accounting system, it's as if everything clicks into place! Financial information becomes less confusing, decisions become easier, and you develop more confidence in your business.
If your QuickBooks account is broken or things just aren't balancing, your bookkeeper is the professional that knows exactly what to do in order to fix it.
5. Is this a side-hustle or a long-term business?
As unfortunate as it is to say, we have encountered a lot of horror stories about bookkeepers simply abandoning their posts. Many people see bookkeeping as an easy side-hustle to make a bit of extra cash! Unfortunately, this means that there are quite a few untrained, inexperienced "bookkeepers" who are providing a lower level of service than what's possible.
If you're looking to build your business, you need a reliable service provider who is going to be around for the long haul. It's okay to gather more information about your vendor by asking if they're simply a solo practitioner. "Are you hoping to grow your business?", or, "is this a full-time job for you?" are questions that can help you deeply evaluate if your relationship is going to be fruitful or not.
As I mentioned above, working with any vendor can feel like a gamble. It's often a guessing game to figure out who's going to fit your needs properly! By asking the right questions and seeking to understand more about who you're working with, whether they're a bookkeeper in Orange County, or a virtual bookkeeper that can help you grow your business, you'll have a better chance of finding the right partner in understanding your financial story.