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What’s the Deal with Bookkeepers, Anyway?

What’s the deal with Bookkeepers anyway?

I’ve heard it a million times.  And it always goes something like this:  “Oh, you’re a bookkeeper.  Cool.  (I added that part.)  I was thinking maybe I’d start doing some bookkeeping too.”

ME:  Oh, cool.  ( I really do say that.)  What kind of training or experience do you have?

THEM:  Oh, well, I had an accounting class back in college and I’ve always been pretty good with numbers, so, yeah, I think I’d be pretty good at.

OR

THEM:  Well, it doesn’t seem that hard so I think I could do it.  I pay all my own bills and stuff.

At this point, my inner monologue takes over and progresses more or less in the same way:

Oh no you didn’t!

But it brings up a common impression that while widespread, is grossly inaccurate.  And that is that just about anybody is qualified to be a bookkeeper.  Now I’m not saying it’s an elite club inhabited only by superhero types (or is it?) but it’s a little more complicated than “I took a college class umpteen years ago, ergo, I’m ready to go!”

The thing about being a bookkeeper these days is there is no uniform credential or test to distinguish a professional from a hack.  And that’s bad news because just because someone calls themselves a bookkeeper doesn’t mean you should let them anywhere near your books.  So how can you tell the difference?  Is it just a crapshoot?  Or is there a way to be sure your bookkeeper is a professional?

Being a professional doesn’t mean they wear a business suit and carry a briefcase although sporting a natty blazer and leather carryall never hurts.  It’s much much more.  Professional bookkeepers are committed to their craft.  They have education, experience, and a strong code of ethics.  Professional bookkeepers stay up to date on the changes within the industry, are in tune with the way technological advances can benefit small businesses and are constantly looking for ways to improve their value to the clients they serve.  Does that sound like someone you want in your corner?

Professional bookkeepers constantly have to fight against the stereotype of a bookkeeper being a secretary, an admin assistant or a data entry clerk.  There’s nothing wrong with being any one of those things, it’s just that that’s not what a bookkeeper is.  Ideally, a bookkeeper is one leg of a three legged stool with the other two being the business owner (obviously) and the CPA.  Why does the bookkeeper deserve equal standing?  Because the bookkeeper is the one in the trenches, the one consistently working with the finances of the business and providing the information that allows the business owner to make solid decisions.  Besides the day to day tasks they do, they provide financial statements and help the owner see the historical trends that their business has taken.  They provide insight on what those trends mean and how to either build on them or change them so that future profitability is increased.  Does that sound like something that has value?

It all boils down to building the best possible team to support your business.  So if you’re in the market for a bookkeeper, make sure they’re a professional.