Finding a good bookkeeper is not easy. With so many bookkeepers out there, how do you select the right one for you? In our earlier article on when is it time to hire a bookkeeper, we covered 3 tell-tale signs that it is time to hire or switch to a new bookkeeper for your startup.
We understand that selecting an outsourced bookkeeping partner is not an easy decision. With so many different firms out there offering a variety of products and value propositions, how do you choose? Based on our years of experience, we have listed 10 criteria that you should consider when selecting a new Bookkeeper.
- Industry Expertise – Does your bookkeeper have experience in your industry?
Many industries have unique accounting requirements or tax opportunities that bookkeepers familiar with your industry will be aware of. You want to ensure that the bookkeeping firm you select has extensive experience in working with companies in your industry. If you are a SaaS startup, you want accountants that understand the nuances of your business to ensure that industry-specific best practices are utilized. For example, as a SaaS startup, you’ll likely be less interested in working with a bookkeeper that has extensive manufacturing experience since inventory and capital assets will likely not be material for your business. Instead, you’d want an accountant that will organize your chart of accounts in a manner that enables you to perform a quick analysis of KPIs, report to investors, apply for government grants, and support the SR&ED filing process. You will be thankful you have that expertise when you are going into that next fundraising round or set of M&A discussions.
- Client Profile – Does the firm’s ideal client profile (stage and size) match your company profile?
Similar to the point above on industry expertise, you should ensure that the bookkeeping firm you work with has experience working with a company at your current stage and size and has the ability to grow with you. For example, if you are a Series B company with one hundred employees, your needs will not be met by a bookkeeping firm whose clients are primarily pre-seed companies that have 2-3 employees. The expertise required to effectively service both of these companies will be materially different.
- Services – What is the scope of services provided?
The list of potential bookkeeping services provided by a firm will vary from firm to firm. Ensure that the services provided by the firm match your current, and future potential, needs.
- Who will you work with – Will you be assigned a unique bookkeeper or a team of bookkeepers?
Although there are advantages and disadvantages to both, we always recommend having a dedicated bookkeeper for your company as it provides continuity resulting in fewer errors and greater efficiency. Additionally, it enables the bookkeeper to learn about your business to make recommendations for improvement. Trust me, you don’t want a new bookkeeper constantly picking up your file as you’ll find yourself frequently getting them up to speed on your unique business needs.
- Communication – How can you get a hold of your bookkeepers and what is a reasonable response time?
Having a way to quickly and easily be able to contact your bookkeeper will be important to ensure alignment, accuracy, and to answer any questions you may have. You will want to ensure that you are able to get help from your bookkeeper when you need it. Having an open line of communication with reasonable response times is critical to a successful partnership. Imagine going into a fundraising or M&A and not being able to access some critical financial information due to delayed responsiveness from your accounting firm. Ask your potential bookkeeping partner what the normal method of communication and response times are for their firm.
- Technology – What technology is used by your bookkeeper?
There are many bookkeeping SaaS applications designed to make the transaction flow seamless while increasing efficiency and accuracy, such as Quickbooks Online, Xero, Plooto, Hubdoc, Expensify, and Stripe to name a few. Your bookkeeper should evaluate your company’s needs and recommend an accounting tech-stack right sized for your business.
- Accounting Method - Will your accountant use cash-based or accrual accounting?
You may have heard the term accrual accounting and have wondered what it is and how it differs from cash accounting. At a high level, the primary difference between the two is when revenue and expenses are recorded. Cash accounting is easier to implement - revenue and expenses are recorded when cash is received or paid. Accrual accounting requires a company to recognize revenue when it is earned and expenses when the cost is incurred, regardless of the movement of cash.
Accrual accounting is the more common method utilized by companies as it more accurately matches the timing of revenue and expenses to when your company is actually providing/receiving services, resulting in greater management insight.
You will want to ensure that the bookkeeper’s accounting method meets your company’s needs. Most startup’s that have external investors or lenders are looking to raise capital, or need to perform a financial review or audit, will need accrual based financial statements. This is an important question for all tech startups to ask as you don’t want to be stuck in a situation where your fundraising round or acquisition is delayed while you convert your financials from cash accounting to accrual accounting.
- Firm Scalability - Can the accounting firm grow with you?
If you’re looking to grow, you want a firm that could grow with you. Having a firm with fractional Controllers and fractional CFOs will allow you to have a ‘one stop shop’ for all your Finance and Accounting needs. It will also allow greater efficiency and a higher level of service as the firm will be able to obtain a deep understanding of your business to provide more valuable insights.
- Quality Control – What is the firm’s review process?
You want to ensure that the firm you are working with has a quality control process where your financials are reviewed by another individual at the company, preferably someone more senior.
- Last but Not Least….Pricing
Pricing is obviously an important factor in the decision making process, but you should not use it as the primary factor as selecting the wrong bookkeeper could end up costing the Company significantly more in the future. Sometimes you get what you pay for!
Taking the time to select a good bookkeeper will impress you and take a massive load off your plate. A bookkeeping and accounting firm’s client base, testimonials, and case studies should provide a strong indication of whether they would be the right fit for your company.
BrightIron was created to provide startup companies with access to a team of seasoned CFOs, Controllers and Bookkeepers on a fractional basis. Startups can now access a team of finance professionals at a fraction of the cost, to help them manage the finance function and drive growth in enterprise value.
Contact us and let us show you how we are the best fit for your startup’s bookkeeping and accounting needs.