3 Signs Your Bookkeeping is Broken

Alan Man

Sooner or later, even the most budget-conscious business owner needs to bring in some outside help. Bookkeeping is a prime example of a task most owners will want to offload – it’s time-consuming, detail-oriented, and easy to make mistakes.

Bringing in an outside pro to handle your bookkeeping should mean that everything is handled, without you needing to worry about it…but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Whether it’s resourcing issues or a mismatch in business styles, sometimes a bookkeeping relationship just isn’t working out. If you’re not sure if your current bookkeeper is getting you what you need, here’s three signs you should reconsider your options, before the tax season crunch hits.

Sign #1: You’re not getting your books on time.

This one is pretty basic: you’re paying a bookkeeper to do something you don’t have time to do yourself, namely stay on top of your records and deliver the books on time. If that’s regularly not happening, it’s a big red flag.

Most companies will want to do a monthly close on their books. This includes reconciling against your bank statement, so you can confirm that your records are accurate. Your financial statements come from your books; if the books aren’t closed, you don’t know if you can trust the information in your statements. Since accurate financial statements are critical for things like budgeting, evaluating the health of your business, and managing your burn rate, not having them is a serious liability.

Bottom line, if your bookkeeper isn’t getting your books to you in a timely manner, you may want to consider changing bookkeeping service providers.

Sign #2: They can’t (or won’t) answer your questions.

For something as integral to your business as your financial records, you want to work with a partner, not a vendor. Yes, you are paying your bookkeeper to handle this for you, but there will still be times when you’ll want to know more detail on what’s going on in your books. When questions do come up, your bookkeeper should be willing and able to address them with you.

This doesn’t mean you should expect your bookkeeper to be able to drop everything to talk to you at any time – partnership does go both ways, and you probably aren’t your bookkeeper’s only client. But scheduling time with them to discuss your books is a completely reasonable request.

Your bookkeeper should be willing to explain why they do things the way that they do, and listen if you have concerns. If your current bookkeeper regularly ignores your questions about your books, or gives you incomplete answers, they might not be the right fit for your business needs.

Sign #3: You keep finding mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes at some point, and bookkeepers are human too. If your books are regularly coming back with errors, however, it’s a warning sign.

As we’ve discussed, clean books are essential for creating accurate, actionable financial statements. If you’re frequently finding mistakes in your books, it throws the trustworthiness of your statements into doubt – which then also raises doubts about the business decisions you made with that information. Compounding that problem is that if you’re having to regularly review and correct the books yourself, it undermines the whole reason you’re paying a bookkeeper in the first place. You’re not actually getting your time back.

There could be a number of reasons your books come back with frequent errors – a common problem is understaffed bookkeepers, who don’t always have time to check their work as thoroughly as they would like. If your books are complex or contain a lot of industry-specific issues, it’s also possible your bookkeeper isn’t familiar with your business’s particular needs.

Regardless of the root cause: if you can’t rely on the quality of your books, it’s time to find another bookkeeping solution.

Your financial records are the bedrock of business. At the end of the day, you need to be able to have confidence that you’ll get your books when you need them, in good condition, with your questions and concerns addressed. If you don’t have that confidence right now, then it’s a strong indicator that something needs to change.