How’s your relationship with your bookkeeper? Are you best friends? Do you only speak once a year?
Your relationship with your bookkeeper should be on your priority list. In fact, your bookkeeper should be your closest confidant and biggest ally in business.
Too many small business owners have an on-again-off-again relationship with a financial advisor. But, according to a recent study conducted by Xero, more than 65 percent of failed entrepreneurs blamed financial issues for their downfall. Forming a strong relationship with a bookkeeper can make the difference between success and failure.
Beyond organizing your financial information, bookkeepers can help with putting the “words behind the numbers” and tell you the story about what is really going on in the life of your business, plus also liaise with your tax preparer to assist with compliance. Plus, an experienced bookkeeper who’s familiar with your business can help you navigate many nuances, like your operational systems and cloud integration with apps to help create efficiencies.
But the path to a productive experience with an bookkeeper starts with building a foundation for a long-term relationship, not settling for compliance or audit. Here are six tips for getting your relationship off on the right foot:
1. Get organized
Don’t walk into your first meeting with a bookkeeper with scraps of paper, unopened envelopes and illegible receipts. You’ll ultimately save energy and money if you spend a little extra time upfront: organize paperwork and set up your business on online banking and cloud-based money management tools. If you’re paying a bookkeeper by the hour, it will make it easier for them to work efficiently and it will give her a clearer window into your business.
2. Know what you need – and communicate it
Do you just need someone to help with compliance? Or do you want someone familiar with your industry who can help you prepare for potential partnerships and growth opportunities? Do some homework, talk to your network and reach out to local business associations to determine the kinds of services and expertise you really need. Once you know what you need, be clear with your bookkeeper so they know how you’ll work together, how often they will be in touch and what you expect.
3. Collaborate in real time
Your bookkeeper cannot help you if they don’t know your numbers. Make it as frictionless as possible for her to access your numbers when she needs them. Online collaboration and data-sharing tools make working together easy, no matter where you’re each located, and many online accounting platforms (Xero included) enable bookkeepers to access client accounts on-the-go. These tools can also help your bookkeeper analyze your business data to uncover hidden strengths and weaknesses, and help you better prepare for the future.
4. Use your business plan as a roadmap for collaboration
If you don’t have a business plan already, make one. And, once you have it, use it as roadmap to guide quarterly conversations and decisions with your accountant. Your business may certainly evolve and priorities may change, but creating a business plan can be a powerful exercise in thinking through scenarios and anticipating problems before they hinder growth. Regularly discussing your business plan with your bookkeeper can also help keep you accountable and focused on the key drivers of growth for your company.
5. Don’t let your bookkeeper be the last to know
If you’re planning to make a big purchase, enter into a major partnership or take on large investment, don’t wait until the eleventh hour to tell your bookkeeper. Share your vision and bring them into key decisions. The more your bookkeeper understands where you want your business to be and how you want to get there, the better equipped he’ll be to recommend money-saving financial practices and avoid tax penalties.
Skip the gifts, make a referral
Finally, remember that your bookkeeper has a business to grow too. If you really love their work, forgo a gift and recommend them to your peers. Showing your support and helping her build a book of business can go a long way in establishing the trust and camaraderie at the core of every important professional relationship.
But flowers are nice too……….