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Your Bookkeeper Just Quit: Now What?

Posted by Stephen King
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 Bookkeeper quit

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employees are only staying in a job on average for 1.5 years, so retention is getting harder all over. Source

What would happen if your bookkeeper quit? Is there someone in place to pick up where they left off? Do you have written policies and procedures for all of your business’s bookkeeping and accounting?

If these questions get you thinking, consider this a good opportunity to re-evaluate the position of bookkeeper in your business’s financial operations. It’s also a reminder to examine and fine-tune your financial processes.

In addition to the immediate aggravation of having to deal with a backlog of data entry and catch-up, a bookkeeper quitting can expose inefficient and outdated financial processes that can actually cause your business significant financial loss.

It can become painfully evident what can happen to a small business without a reliable and trustworthy bookkeeper to oversee the company’s finances.

Many business owners make the mistake of having just one person who’s responsible for bookkeeping and accounting tasks. Is it effective to rely on the expertise of just one person to handle your business’s bookkeeping and accounting? Who would take over if they suddenly left, got sick, or if for some reason, you needed to fire them?

The Stories Numbers Tell: How One Woman Stole $53 Million Over 20 Years - Associate of Certified Fraud Examiners

Although this blog focuses on what to do when your bookkeeper quits, it’s also worth mentioning the possibility of fraud. In a previous blog, Signs Your Bookkeeper is Stealing and How to Prevent Fraud, we share some of the reasons why this happens that you may not have thought of. Having a second set of eyes, setting up internal controls and creating separation of duties, can help to significantly lower the risk of fraud in your business.

Regardless of the situation that may cause a business to suddenly lose their bookkeeper, there are several important factors you need to consider for the sake of keeping your business’s financial operations running smoothly.

Whether the departure was abrupt or planned, you cannot put your business on hold while you’re looking for a replacement. You also want to make sure you review these important action items (that often get overlooked) in the event of employee separation.

Following is a checklist of what you should do immediately in the event of employee separation to prevent any possible issues.

EMPLOYMENT SEPARATION - ACTIONS CHECKLIST

Pre-termination

  • Conduct pre-term discussion(s) & assign owners for these checklist items
  • Request policy and procedure documentation (review and update)
  • Spreadsheets, docs, files (verify location and current status)

Termination

  • Inactivate server account access & forward email messages to supervisor
  • Inactivate CRM account/other proprietary company systems
  • Conduct Exit meeting with employee & collect Company property (keys, building access card, equipment, etc.)
  • Change Passwords (QuickBooks, bank, credit card, billing system, LogMeIn, etc.)

Post-termination

  • Complete termination paperwork (including updates to payroll and benefits)
  • Change Door Codes / Keys
  • Inactivate building access card
  • Notify Staff
  • Notify Clients
  • Restore computer hard-drive to standard company set-up
  • Change or delete voicemail message
  • Update phone line (forward extension to supervisor, delete name in directory)
  • Delete name from equipment & distribution lists (electronic & paper)

BUSINESS FINANCIAL OPERATIONS - BEST PRACTICES

The checklist is a general overview of action items that should be addressed immediately, but what can you do to be more prepared before this happens? Here are four best practices to have in place so your bookkeeping tasks don’t get left behind…

  1. Develop written policies and procedures for all your bookkeeping and accounting systems and processes.
    • You shouldn't build a business on “tribal knowledge.” You need your company’s policies and procedures in writing because, without documentation, it’s difficult to train new employees on how transactions should be initiated, approved and recorded. If you have a systematic view of bookkeeping tasks, it should be easy to pick up where someone left off to keep things running smoothly.
  1. Transition to a cloud-hosted accounting system and go completely paperless.
    • Web-based accounting systems give you better transparency into your entire bookkeeping operation (remotely). It allows you to stay on top of your financial operations and have easy accessibility to your business’s financial information in the event of an issue.
  1. Implement automation and integration of your financial system.
    • Automation allows you to instill the best practice of zero-entry accounting, which basically means that if someone quits, the entire billing, collections and payments processes won’t come to a screeching halt!
  1. Create separation of duties for various bookkeeping and accounting responsibilities.
    • A high-level overview of separation of duties basically means that no single individual should be in charge of two or more parts of transactional activity.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN HIRING A BOOKKEEPER

Now that we’ve covered best practices to be more prepared and actions to take if your bookkeeper quits, the next step is what you should look for when hiring a great bookkeeper?

The #1 Thing to Look for When Hiring a Bookkeeper

What’s the first thing you should look for? Hint: It’s not just skills.

Of course, you need someone with basic skills. Your next bookkeeper or accountant should know how to at least do the following:

  • Add vendors and customers to your books
  • Be proficient in QuickBooks®
  • Know how to pay payroll taxes online
  • Reconcile bank statements and credit card statements
  • Analyze your books for errors
  • Manage accounts payable and receivable

There are a lot of people out there with those basic skills. So how do you decide which one of those people is your perfect person? What’s the #1 thing to look for? It’s behavior. Skills, you can teach. What you can’t teach is behavior.

You should focus on any behaviors that are important to you and your company, but here are three suggestions: good communication, innovation and problem solving.

OTHER OPTIONS FOR SMALL BUSINESS BOOKKEEPING

When considering the cost of having an in-house bookkeeper, it’s more than just the cost of hiring or their salaries, but also the additional costs of just having an employee. Another option to consider is hiring for outsourced bookkeeping and accounting services.

Outsourcing also offers many benefits that you can’t get with an in-house bookkeeper. Never have to hire, train and manage bookkeeping and accounting staff again.

This is where we come in. GrowthForce can serve as your outsourced advanced bookkeeping and accounting department. We provide outstanding client service with a U.S. based team of a bookkeeper, staff accountant and controller who provide the expertise you need to help your business improve cash flow and increase profits.

Conclusion

Be prepared for the possibility of losing your bookkeeper whether they quit or if a sudden unfortunate situation occurs. Have a plan so you know what to do. Have policies and procedures in place and be sure there is a backup who knows how to access your systems data and information.

Many businesses are transitioning to outsourced accounting services as a more cost-effective, efficient and viable alternative to in-house accounting. The cost of outsourcing your bookkeeping and accounting makes it easier to budget and helps remove the burden of hiring, managing, retaining and training staff.

We can help alleviate some of the stress from having to hire a bookkeeper by serving as your outsourced advanced bookkeeping and accounting department. Our outstanding client service is provided by our U.S. based team of a bookkeeper, staff accountant and controller who provide the expertise your business needs so you can improve cash flow and increase profits.

"Business and human endeavors are systems... We tend to focus on snapshots of isolated parts of the system. And wonder why our deepest problems never get solved." ~ Peter Senge

Are you a good fit to outsource your accounting?

Look out for our next blog onHow to Hire a Great Bookkeeper”.