As a small business owner, managing bookkeeping is one of the most important aspects of your operations.

Fortunately there are several quality business accounting software options available online, including Toronto’s Wave. Many small business owners choose to do their own bookkeeping, especially in the early stages of their businesses. Staying organized and keeping track of receipts, invoices, payments, and other documents can take time even with the automated support that QuickBooks Online and Xero can bring.

As your business grows it can become too much to handle on your own, and your attentions are better served elsewhere. That’s especially true if you worry about compliance requirements or handling tasks like inventory and payroll. That’s when you should consider outsourcing to an outside bookkeeping service.

When you lift the burden off your shoulders and outsource bookkeeping duties, you can focus on the work you need to do to continue growing your business. But how do you go about vetting a potential Bookkeeper?

Start your Bookkeeper interviews by asking these seven questions:

What is your billing model?  Do you offer a monthly flat fee or an hourly rate?

The traditional method of charging for bookkeeping services is using an hourly rate.

The bookkeeper tracks the time spent on your business in increments, adds up the time spent and then apply their hourly charge-out rate. This means that you’re on the clock anytime your bookkeeper answers your phone call or even responds to your email. 

The bill will vary every time depending on how long it took your bookkeeper to complete the services provided. With this common billing method, clients tend to hold back from asking questions and learning from their bookkeepers because they will be on the clock as soon as the phone is answered. 

Another newer method is charging a monthly fixed price, with prospective clients agreeing to it before the bookkeeper begins work. This way, the bookkeeper can provide detailed quotes and clients can choose the level of service that is right for them at any given time.

Are you/your team members certified professionals?

Look for a Certified Professional Bookkeeper and a member of The Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada, the largest national certifying body for professional bookkeepers. Other certifications to look for: QuickBooks Online Pro Advisor, Xero Advisor Certified, Hubdoc Advanced Partner, Plooto Partner

Do you have a guarantee on your work?

It’s important to ask if they guarantee a certain level of quality, so the accuracy doesn’t change, especially if you’re hiring a Bookkeeping firm and more than one person will be handling your books.

Do you have a specific type of business/niche that you work with?

Some small business owners can get away with hiring a general knowledge bookkeeper, but others need a bookkeeper with industry-specific knowledge, like law firms, non-profits and construction companies.  While this is something that can be learned, you’ll be much further ahead if the person you hire has an understanding of your industry or niche.

At Upside Accounting, we love to work with creative entrepreneurs.  We take over their bookkeeping and taxes, so they can get back to the part of the business they love to do – the creative part.  We get their books in order so their money works for them, instead of just causing stress. If that sounds like you, read Why Creative Businesses Should Hire a Bookkeeper.

Can I count on you when there is an audit?  Or do I need find an accounting firm if there’s a problem?

When hiring a bookkeeper, it can pay to go to a firm with knowledgeable and experienced bookkeepers and accountants. This will ensure a proper record-keeping and tax preparation strategy, which can reduce your risk of being audited or painlessly getting through an audit, if it ever happens.

Revenue Canada website is very open about how and why they conduct audits. Many are performed on self-employed, unincorporated, work from home business owners, as they are a high risk group. Honesty and conscientious recordkeeping goes a long way towards keeping the auditors away. Then, if the CRA ever does audit your business, you’ll have nothing to hide and all the documentation you need to support your tax claims.

Do I have to coordinate a bookkeeping service with a separate year end accounting firm?

We believe that managing everything all in one place creates efficiencies and therefore cost savings in the end. You can have a “Quarterback” with specialists on the team depending on your specific needs. Bookkeepers handle the day-to-day financial management and accountants offer valuable insight into financial strategic planning, including taxes. They are basically two sides of the same coin, as each side relies on the other to properly manage a business’ financials.

Are you continuing your education?

A quality Bookkeeper will be committed to enhancing their skills by self-study or with additional classes to ensure that they’re staying up to date with the skills your business demands. It has been suggested that 35% of time needs to be spent on keeping current and up-to-date, especially with technology and governmental policy changes.

There are lots of potential interview questions to ask when interviewing bookkeepers. Hopefully the bookkeeper interview questions listed above will help you assess your concerns during the interview process.

Remember, the candidate that works best for your business will be passionate about the work they do, have the technical knowledge you need, understand your industry (or be ready and willing to learn) and align with your business’s larger purpose.