If there was ever a gaping variable in business, it’s how long you should expect to spend to get a new bookkeeper up to speed on your company and have them actively providing you the solutions you need. In our experience, any new client and their company are going to fall into three distinct areas of business development:
- Concept and Research
- Startup Phase
While these may seem easy to understand, for businesses that are falling into the gaps between these phases, it is critical to know how your bookkeeper integrates.
In the Concept and Research Phase, a business is spending a tremendous amount in simple capital investment and is often hemorrhaging money due to development costs. While this phase of business development usually affords easy egress for your bookkeeping firm to be integrated, a critical concern is making sure that they are the long-term partner of choice – they will be the very foundation of the accounting for the business going forward and the systems they integrate in this phase of business must be robust for the business to be ready to open its doors.
As a company begins to move into the Startup Phase, capital investment begins to slow down and budgets and systems have become much more relevant – the slowing of capital investment has been replaced by overhead which is now on a regular schedule. The key to Startup success is a lean budget and expense model (To learn more about how you can to run a really tight operation reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries can really benefit you). At this point, bringing on a bookkeeper is still a relatively easy process with one notable exception: If you haven’t operated with clear money and spending rules in the Concept phase. Playing fast and loose and not following the basics from the beginning can mean hours of cleanup for any bookkeeper you choose and much like bad news, there is no sense in putting it off – you need to fix it fast. For startups, the signs that your books are going to take some time to make accurate and onboarding a new bookkeeper will take some time:
- If your books are not reconciled on a month to month basis.
- Bank balance not matching bank reconciliation statements.
- Accounts receivable and accounts payable not recorded in the corresponding months.
- Not tracking Inventory consistently and accurately
- Personal loans and bank loans not accounted for properly.
These are all flashing signs that say “HELP!” and the only time to fix them is as soon as possible.
As a business begins to enter the Established Phase of its life, there is a notable deviation in the effort required to onboard a new bookkeeper. Businesses that have been using GAAP and solid bookkeeping standards can, in general, move easily from one bookkeeper to the next. In our experience, though, many businesses look at bookkeeping in much the same way that people look at cleaning the exterior windows in their home – a great idea that is only rarely done thoroughly.
Obviously, this leads to excessive time spent bringing a new bookkeeper on board and again, we’ve often seen that poor bookkeeping can result in anywhere from 20 to 40 hours for highly skilled bookkeepers to be “up to speed” on the business model – from the client assessment, collection of documents, post assessment, and finishing the onboarding with a complete reconciliation of the books.
Looking at it from the point of view of the actual business owner? Simply gathering all the information necessary for a new bookkeeping firm could be 5 or even 10 hours. For an owner, finding the time to accomplish this can be devilishly hard and if their business needs to get things “caught up” the hours on both sides can add up quickly – catching up can be a costly experience.
So what does all this mean? No matter what phase of business you find yourself, keeping up with expenses is among the most important roles you must ensure is properly taken care of. Bringing on a new professional to handle your books doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, but messy books can be devastating to a company at every stage.
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