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Having adequate help, with knowledge and ability, is a must. There are too many things that only the owner can do and even the owner is limited by the same 24-hour day we each have to live in. Some things will not get done. Accurately maintaining the books is a very important job and has a huge effect on the success of a business, but it is, usually, better handled by a good bookkeeper rather than the harried owner. The owner is usually the best sales person as well as the problem solver and his or her time is best spent making money for the business and defining policy of the business.

Finding the correct personnel to fill the bookkeeping position may be easy or difficult depending on location, the general economy, and job duties and hours. Occasionally it is as easy as asking a loyal customer if they are looking for a (part-time) job; other times you may search for weeks for the proper candidate without luck. Newspaper ads work well in some areas; other areas have more success with jobs posted on social sites such as Linked In or Monster. Some may even use staffing firms.

Whatever path your search takes, I would encourage you to interview multiple applicants. If you need help conducting the interview, has several questions to ask perspective employees during the interview to help you find the best fit. Make sure they really know bookkeeping. We have a bookkeeper’s test available if you would like to check them out. It is too easy to just say “I can handle payroll tax reports, etc. when they do not really the experience. Once your top 2 to 4 candidates have been chosen, check references. Never skip this step. Many times former employers will be reluctant to give a bad report even if merited. Let your final question be “Would you re-hire this person for the same position today?” After checking references, complete a background check on the frontrunner. If the references and background check are satisfactory, make a job offer. Keep in mind this is not the end of the owner’s responsibility toward the bookkeeper.

Once you have hired a new employee, be sure to train them. It does take extra time away from other things that you need to be doing but it gives the new employee value and you will get that time back (and more) once the bookkeeper has been trained and you can concentrate on doing those things only the owner can do. Make sure that they understand store policy and your expectations. Provide them an employee manual to keep and say the words, “taking money from the cash register or merchandise from the store without the owner’s expressed permission is stealing.”

In very short time the new bookkeeper will be doing most work independently. Be sure to point out those things they are doing well and those things that need improvement. The goal is for them to work independently and to relieve the owner of this tedious task.

Keep in mind, however, that opportunity makes a thief so work to make those opportunities few and far between. The owner should always open the bank statement and ask to look at the supporting documents for at least 1 check. Scan through the list of checks and look for anything unusual. Make a “to-do” list for yourself and ask about payroll tax deposits, sales tax deposits, etc. the day before they are due. It gives the appearance that you are on top of the payments thereby serving to remove opportunity.

Make the time to compare the check register and the bank statement. If your bookkeeper tells you he/she cannot get the computer system to print a check register, you should be hearing loud warning bells. If your bookkeeper tells you he/she cannot print the monthly income statement or balance sheet, you should be hearing warning bells. Computerized bookkeeping programs are designed with these very important documents in mind. While there may be a problem occasionally, a consistent problem is a warning about other, more serious problems for you to uncover. It is your company; if you want to check the books, do so. No bookkeeper should be offended by your review of your books.

Obviously, the first month on a new computer system, there will be challenges and issues for your new bookkeeper, but after a couple of months, this should not be a common occurrence. Reports should happen without the owner’s prompting by the prescribed date. If the bookkeeper needs help with the software, the bookkeeper needs to spend time on the phone or computer with customer service to get help.

So, when should you seek out a bookkeeper? If you are spending more time working on your business records rather than building your business, it is time. If you are working 60+ hours a week so can get the record keeping done, it is past time. If you don’t like messing with the details and you can afford to hire a bookkeeper, it is time. If you compare working on your books to some dreaded, painful event, it is time.  If you have multiple stores, it is past time.

It is critical to the success of the business that the owner knows and understands how much comes into the business and how much goes out of the business monthly. Just knowing the dollar amount of the sales is not enough. Just ask anyone who has dealt with cash flow problems. By the 10th of the month, a competent bookkeeper will be able to present the Profit/Loss statement and Balance Sheet for the owner’s review.

Owners should never sign a blank check and should never sign a check that does not have adequate support (invoice, statement, receiving report, etc).

Other issues that an owner may consider before interviewing for the bookkeeper position include: number of hours the job requires and location. Is it a full-time position or part-time? Is the bookkeeper willing to work more hours the first half of the month and fewer the last half if that is better for the company knowing that the hours will average out to XX per week?

Statistically, the bookkeeper or CFO has the best opportunity for embezzling from the company. They spend the majority of their time dealing with money, certainly more than the average shoplifter who is in and out of the store in minutes. If the owner is a trusting sort, anxious to avoid all aspects of maintaining the books, it becomes easier for a dishonest employee to manipulate records. For this reason, the owner should be aware to some extent of what is paid out, how payments are processed and to whom payments are made. Fortunately, those are easy to verify.

Do not hesitate to hire employees as the need arises but do make it a part of your day to check up on employees. No business owner sets out to hire a dishonest employee, but only by removing the opportunity to steal can a business owner hope to keep employees honest.

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