As it’s Global Bookkeeping Week, we think it’s time to raise a cup to all bookkeepers and accountants for all the great work they do. This business critical role can often be an overlooked and unappreciated cog in the smooth running of any company, yet they are always an integral part of budgeting and financial management – flying to the rescue in moments of emergency.

Recording a business’s daily financial transactions might not have the glamour of sales or the seniority of the chief executive, but in the same way a business won’t thrive without a strong sales pipeline and visionary leadership, it won’t grow and be profitable without the numbers being carefully monitored and recorded. Responsibility for logging and tracking this transnational data falls upon the bookkeeper’s shoulders. Being familiar with this level of detail, places the bookkeeper in the role of a trusted consultant too, letting them advise on options during times of expansion or budgetary restriction.

Getting the basics right when setting up a business is vital and finding a good bookkeeper is not to be overlooked. Profitability is key – so being on top of money in and money out allows an owner to see how their business is performing. When a business is under pressure, it’s these numbers that tell the company director whether costs need to be reduced or sales transactions need to be increased (or both). So the bookkeeper’s attention to detail in fact steers a business into a particular operational direction.

The raw data that a bookkeeper collects also forms the backbone of key financial reporting. This data can then be used by an accountant –ensuring that financial transactions have been correctly recorded before submitting them to HMRC and Companies House. And having a good quality bookkeeper and accounting system can significantly reduce the headache of that annual audit . Don’t let this give the impression that bookkeeping should be respected any less than accounting: bookkeepers are often the first to spot incongruities and errors that could cause delays in submission, or worse errors that could indicate malpractice.

Working together, bookkeepers and accountants help company owners to make money. So it’s essential you know what to look for:

An eye for detail
In order to ‘proofread’ your finances and spot any errors, accuracy and attention to detail are non-negotiable qualities. Having someone who can reliably prevent mistakes and omissions saves valuable time and makes a sometimes arduous task much more efficient.

Month and year end are times of key pressure for any bookkeeper, so someone who can keep a cool head, stay focused ensures the task will get completed as quickly as possible. If the numbers don’t get logged in time, it can cause a back up for the rest of the business and ultimately affect VAT submissions later in the year.

Ability to understand your business
Familiarity with your pricing, how your sales are made, payment cycles…familiarity with these details and how they specifically operate in your business will make errors and irregularities much easier to spot.

Recognised qualifications
Aside from anything, qualifications serve to prove a bookkeeper can make the above claims and acts as a professional standard, offering reassurance of quality. There are various bookkeeping courses and qualifications out there, but a continued interest in keeping skills up to date – including familiarity with accounting tools -is a strong sign of commitment.

Don’t just take their word for it, speak to a bookkeeper’s clients. If you work in a particular industry, it may be useful to find a bookkeeper who has clients in similar areas. It will help if they understand not only your business, but the sector that you operate in.

Technical prowess
With so many online tools and a choice of software, your bookkeeper needs to be a digital native so they’re able to recommend what software suits you and your business best.

It’s this last point given the recent explosion in technology that is changing the future of bookkeeping as a profession. It would be easy to predict the demise of the old-fashioned data-entry clerk recording sales and goods received, because of the choice of easy to use software products. However, for many businesses, while the tools are more affordable, better suited to collaborative working practices and more intuitive to use – bookkeeping is still for many a time-consuming task that requires some very specific (and already listed) skills. While the business owner still has products or services to develop, customers to win and partnerships to build, taking on this fundamental role will always require a dedicated set of eyes. So take this opportunity to appreciate whoever it is that’s looking after your numbers.