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If you feel like having a full-time live-in nanny (think: The Brady Bunch’s “Alice”) is a little pretentious, there’s a new trend among busy mommies: “Mother’s Helpers.”

In case you’re already thinking, “Hold on, Matt. This is a bookkeeping/accounting blog, and you’re a guy. Why in the world are you talking about mommy topics?”…stay with me. This is going somewhere, I promise.

Mother’s Helpers have shown up on the scene as a solution for busy stay-at-home moms who don’t want to drop their children off somewhere and don’t need the full services of a sitter or nanny. They are perfect for helping with all sorts of simple tasks or entertaining the children while mom is present so she can complete some tasks herself.

What does this have to do with you?

As a small business owner, you are the “parent” of your growing company. You’re responsible for raising it well and sending it off into the world to do good things. And hopefully you don’t get notes back about how it is misbehaving when you’re not looking.

Just like real parenting, being a small business owner can get a bit overwhelming sometimes. Even if you have a great team, there are a hundred tasks that always seem to be on the verge of getting out of hand–especially when you’re in the early stages and have to wear multiple hats.

When you reach that point of feeling overwhelmed in your small business, it’s time to get some help. Last month’s article “How to Know When to Outsource Your Small Business Accounting & Bookkeeping” was Step 1 to finding help. In it, we talk about how you can save time, save money, and find peace of mind by outsourcing your small business accounting. At some point it just doesn’t make sense to keep doing it all yourself, so knowing when to get help is important to your success.
This article, then, is Step 2–all about how to do it.

Here are some basic questions you need to ask an accountant or a bookkeeper when you’re thinking about turning your accounting and bookkeeping over to someone else:

  • How long have you been in business?
    The nanny/sitter/mom’s helper who started last week is probably not the one for you. Neither is the outsourced accounting firm that hasn’t worked with many small businesses. Be sure that you aren’t going to be the training ground for someone who has no previous experience.
  • What certifications/registrations do you have?
    Be confident that the person or company you’re talking to has done what it takes to take their job seriously and has gotten quality certifications in the areas you’re wanting to trust them in. That way you can have peace of mind that they will take your business seriously too.
  • How will my information be secured?
    Just like you wouldn’t trust your child with someone who isn’t safe, you shouldn’t trust your business’ financial information to anyone who isn’t absolutely trustworthy to keep it locked down. Further questions regarding information security are:
      1. How do you physically secure your offices and servers?
      2. Are all of your sites encrypted?
      3. How is your network secured?
  • How well can I expect you to communicate with me?
    If you call the sitter to check in and keep getting voicemail and they don’t return your texts, you (rightfully so) get a bit concerned. You might even leave dinner early to go home and find out what’s going on. And if you discover that something went wrong and they didn’t bother to let you know, that’s the last time you let that sitter near your children.

    The company you outsource your finances to should be available to answer your questions whenever you call. And you should expect them to contact you immediately whenever they discover problems with your bookkeeping.

    They should communicate clearly and concisely so as not to waste your valuable time. And they ought to be flexible enough to communicate with you in the way you prefer (phone, email, etc.)
  • Who will actually be doing the work?
    Find out of a single individual will handle all of your needs or if the work will be assigned to a variety of people on a team. Also, you need to know if all of the work is done “in house” at the firm you outsource to or if they subcontract to offshore freelancers when their own workload gets too heavy.
  • What kind of reports can I expect to receive?
    The basic ones a good accounting/bookkeeping firm should be able to quickly provide include:
    1. Cash Position – including receipts and payments
    2. Bank Statements – checking, savings, credit cards, etc.
    3. Income – revenue, expenses, profit & loss
    4. Balance Sheet – assets, liabilities
    5. Payroll Expenses

Decisions you face related to your particular business may require other specific reports. Be sure your accounting firm is willing and able to provide them. It should never be a hassle to get the information you need!

  • What happens to my files when you are finished with them?
    1. Are they stored online? At your offices? If so, for how long?
    2. Are they returned to me?
    3. Are they destroyed after you send me copies?
    4. What happens to them if we end our relationship?

These 7 questions are by no means the only ones you should ask an accounting/bookkeeping firm before you outsource your small business finances! But they are a good starting point that will hopefully bring lots of other questions to mind as you interview people to take care of your “baby.”

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