Hiring a remote bookkeeper and choosing to outsource different aspects of your back office (including accounting, payroll, and HR) offers many advantages to businesses of all sizes. It eliminates the need for your business to foot the cost of staffing, training, managing and (eventually) replacing in-house bookkeepers, while at the same time ensuring you have access to a trained and experienced professional that understands your particular industry and business details. All of this and you can still expect superior service and live support, and forward-thinking bookkeepers are also in the cloud, ensuring records are paperless, encrypted and available 24/7.This is all amplified if you choose to go with a remote bookkeeping firm, rather than an individual internal employee.
When it comes to choosing the right remote bookkeeping company, especially if you haven’t hired one before, it might be tough to know exactly what to look for. That’s why we’ve put together a checklist for selecting a remote bookkeeper that includes 13 different qualities we believe your chosen partner should have, along with a few questions to help determine if they have that quality.
What To Look For
Honesty, security and reliability are musts for bookkeeping and accounting, so you need to examine whether integrity is a part of the company culture and values. Take a good look at their history and see if there’s consistent demonstrations of these values.
- Do they offer testimonials or can they point to other clients who are willing to provide opinions about their services, especially in terms of confidentiality, timeliness and efficiency?
- Can they provide satisfactory answers to questions about how they would handle different situations that depend on their integrity?
While having experience in your exact industry isn’t required to do a great job, it is definitely a plus. For instance, the needs of a multi-location, long-established restaurant group could vary a lot from that of a new law firm or venture-backed tech startup. Spend some time exploring a firm's experience in your particular industry (and business stage you’re at) and ask questions to help ensure they understand your unique needs.
- How long have they been a bookkeeper, and how many clients have they had from your industry? Can I talk to one or more of them?
- Do they understand specific terms, parameters, and needs for your industry?
You want to hire a remote bookkeeping company that’s capable of prioritizing your business. They need to be proactive and stay respectful of your time and your communication needs. When you have questions, or if a problem arises, they will need to be able to answer you quickly no matter the day of the week or time of day. Working with a team like KYB, for instance, provides clear advantages as you can expect 24/7 accessibility to fit your changing needs unlike a team member who clocks in and clocks out every day.
- Do they have multiple options for communicating with them (e.g., phone call, text message, messenger service, email, etc.)? Can you have a preference?
- Are they local, domestic or international, and how does this impact their availability?
It’s imperative that you have access to your financial records whenever you need them. Many situations can arise where accessing an invoice or payroll or financials would be imperative and can’t wait until the morning, which is why access is so important. By working with a remote bookkeeping firm like KYB, you should be set up so that you are using cloud-based platforms and paperless solutions that make it easy to access reports at your fingertips and even on-the-go.
- Will records be accessible 24/7?
- Are they securely available in the cloud and accessible from anywhere?
- What kind of platforms and tools do you use? And how will you be involved in setting this up for us?
- We aren’t currently paperless, how will you help us get to where everything we need is available and secure online?
A remote bookkeeping solution should be providing you the same quality (if not better quality) as an in-house bookkeeper, but at a lower cost. As we mentioned, they should require no training, and there should be little need for oversight on your part. The quality of their work should maximize tax deductions and implement money-saving strategies, taking years of combined experience that will make your company better at a fraction of the cost. This is truly one of the key benefits to outsourcing your back office if you find the right partner.
- What’s the total cost of their service, and are there any fees for particular aspects of that service?
- How does that cost compare to what you’d be paying to hire, train and implement an in-house bookkeeper?
- What happens if your dedicated bookkeeper leaves? What costs will be associated with that? (Hint: there shouldn’t be any when working with a firm.)
- What kind of costs will you save when compared to the eventual turnover in this type of position if you hired a full-time employee?
We mentioned that you can hire either an individual or a team, and it’s worth noting that hiring a firm to manage your financials allows a team of professionals with different specializations and expertise to address your business needs no matter what the situation is (and at a fraction of the cost). Even firms that assign only one person to your account will provide that person with a host of resources (including colleagues) that wouldn’t be available if you only hired an individual.
- Does the firm offer a team of knowledgeable, experienced accountants? How big is the team?
- How many people will be assigned to your account, and what is their expertise?
The Right Technology
Cloud-based software is a must in the 21st century, and your accounting and bookkeeping software needs to be able to interact with or integrate with other types of software (e.g., CRM, banking systems). Programs like QuickBooks allow for a single point of access that can control information, reporting and even the movement of funds. The firm you work with should be trained experts on the best accounting software available and be able to educate your team to use it as needed.
- Which software tools do they utilize, and are these tools recognized as trusted and secure?
- How long have they used this software, and are they experts at utilizing it?
- What internal training do they invest in to ensure their team members are always aware of the latest technology updates?
The hard truth is that you’re putting your business’ financial information in the hands of a third party, and even the most secure options can present a modicum of risk. While this is true whether you hire someone at your company or work with a firm, you can actually have less risk when working with an insured partner. By having the right insurance, you’ll know you’re protected from potential risks.
- Are they insured, and with whom?
- What does their policy cover, and how does that impact your financial data?
As with any other employee, vendor, or partner, you want to ensure that you’re paying for the very best. That means you need to take a look at their history for proof of their success.
- Can they provide references and testimonials that prove their solutions worked?
- Have they received any awards or other commendations for their solutions?
Organized and Streamlined Processes
Bookkeeping involves more than an accountant and their software. You need to look at the way they work, and whether the processes they have in place for receiving and handling data, paperwork and more, will make things easier for you and your business operations. For example, one of the key benefits that KYB clients experience is that we bring new and improved processes to the table that will not only simplify but enhance their back office. Our processes are tried and true, as well as customized to each business’s unique needs and organization. Be sure that no matter who you’re working with, that this is the case.
- What are their review policies and safety nets?
- How well do they explain their process for handling invoices and generating reports, and does this reflect an efficient process?
- What kind of help can they provide your team with reviewing and optimizing processes? And what kind of training can that entail?
Businesses, financials, technology, security and related regulations are not static; how they function and what they require is regularly evolving. You need a partner that stays abreast of these changes, and who continually adapts their skills and improves their services to meet new and old needs in the smartest way possible according to the latest best practices.
- Can they illustrate ways that they’ve adapted to comply with new regulations or to adopt new technologies?
- How do they stay abreast of best practices and new tools?
- How do they invest in keeping their team trained and certified so they can provide the best solutions for their clients?
Just because your bookkeeper is remote doesn’t mean that you can’t know who they are or develop a relationship with them. We believe a great remote bookkeeper should still be an extension of your company and a true partner in maintaining and growing your business.
- Is it possible to meet them, either physically or through a video meeting or phone call?
- How regularly can they communicate with you?
- Will the same person be working on my account and who else on the team will be involved?
If you outsource your bookkeeping, you can save money and leverage a number of benefits in your favor. Knowing how to choose a remote bookkeeper is critical to ensuring you get the very best and most secure service. Keep our checklist for selecting a remote bookkeeper in mind as you start your search and carefully consider your options.