Your Business With James Caan 2017 - 71
often the thankless task of a spouse or
partner, or whoever is around at the time.
Your company books are too important to
give to the person who draws the shortest straw.
Surveys show that increasingly bookkeepers are
a key part of the team behind a successful small
business. Whether employed by the business
or a part-time freelancer, a qualified, tech-savvy,
competent bookkeeper can ensure that, if
nothing else, your books are being run properly.
They can handle everything from invoicing
to credit control, from payroll to self-assessment
tax, from opening balances to year-end filing.
They give you back the time you've been
wasting trying to sort out the books yourself,
letting you spend more time on doing what
you do best - running your business.
In return, a good bookkeeper will provide
you with regular figures and, importantly, will
explain what they mean. They'll get to know
your business - how it works, what you're trying
to achieve and what makes you and it tick. They
will work with you to ensure you understand
how your day-to-day decisions affect your
bottom line. Most businesses have seasonal
peaks and troughs, and a good bookkeeper
will not only use the books to warn you when
the troughs are coming but also how the peaks
can be spread to mitigate against the troughs.
Find a good bookkeeper
It's important that the person who looks after
your books is right for you and your business.
Here are 10 ways to make sure you get the best:
Make sure your bookkeeper is regulated
by a professional body. Bookkeeping isn't
a protected title under UK law, so anyone can
call themselves a bookkeeper even if they have
little or no experience, or formal qualifications.
Bookkeeping is also one of the fastest-changing
professions, so your bookkeeper needs to keep
up with new legislation.
Make sure your bookkeeper is licensed
to practise and has professional
indemnity insurance (PII).
Remember that the relationship
between you and your bookkeeper
is vital to your business. You need to like the
person you're working with. If you'll be using
an accountant at the end of year, make sure
they can work together too.
Ask them what they can do for your
business. Some bookkeepers specialise
in specific sectors, although most cover all
types of business. Why are they the best person
for your business?
Ask what they know about you and
your business. At the very least they
should have looked at your website. They
should know before seeing you that they'd
A good bookkeeper
can handle everything
from invoicing to
credit control, from
to year-end filing
bill hasn't been paid. They are going to find out
anyway but you need to know they can handle
this without fluster - and without treating you
like a naughty schoolchild.
Garry Carter is co-founder and chief executive
of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers,
president of ICBGlobal and president of the
International Federation of Bookkeepers. He
is also chairman of the Policy Senate of the
Genesis Initiative, which lobbies government
on behalf of micro and small businesses
like to work for your business and have the
skills you're likely to need.
It will help in your early discussions
to give the bookkeeper an idea of
how good your understanding of bookkeeping
is, so they can present you with figures you
can use to make ongoing business decisions.
Never be afraid to ask what the figures mean.
Your bookkeeper needs to speak your language,
not vice versa.
Don't underestimate the amount of
work that will be needed to do your
books. Far too many businesses fail to correctly
assess how complicated their financial affairs
are. A couple of hours a month probably
won't do it.
Talk about your business - your suppliers,
customers and staff. A bookkeeper will
need to know how your business works to make
decisions about your accounts and to get a
better understanding of what to look out for.
Get a written contract outlining the basic
terms and expectations from both sides.
It can always be amended but it serves to make
sure you are both on the same page.
Tell your bookkeeper if you have any
problem about which they ought to
know; for example, if the VAT is behind or the tax
FIND A BOOKKEEPER
To ensure you search for people
who are not just bookkeepers but
who are ICB Bookkeepers, use the
free Find a Bookkeeper tool at