A quick Google search for the term “bookkeeper charged” produces more than 32,000 results. The extent of issues revolving around ethics, integrity and trust in hiring someone to manage a business’s finances is clearly a pervasive problem. From school bookkeepers charged with embezzlement to small business bookkeepers facing charges of tax evasion, the big business of bookkeeping can be a conduit for criminal activity, as these stories show.
So how can a business – no matter its size – have confidence in bookkeepers being “above bar” in terms of their personal character and professional code of ethics? How can they be so in a time rife with lapses in conscience among no small number of these professionals?
Bookkeepers are as unique and individual as each small business owner or entrepreneur for whom they work and, therefore, shouldn’t be painted with a broad brush. Still, leaders can take measures to reduce their exposure, given the visibility of mal-intent among a few bad apples who happen to be bookkeepers. This is essential since business owners count on bookkeepers to manage some of their most vital, pertinent data.
Here’s how they can proceed with confidence, even if with caution.
Due Diligence When Vetting Bookkeepers
At BELAY, it starts from before Day One. Even within a job prospect’s very first exposure to BELAY – the online job application – potential bookkeeper candidates are well-aware of the high organizational expectations. From the outset, they know that rigorous standards and uncompromising service are essential to the role. As the BELAY bookkeeper job description outlines, candidates must be “responsive, customer-focused, great communicators and team players.”
Once candidates submit their applications, they are subject to thorough scrutiny via a multi-step vetting process. According to Cheryl White, BELAY Talent Acquisition Coordinator, this process typically takes four weeks and involves:
- Initial review of resumes and applications
- Completion of basic bookkeeping and payroll test
- Scheduling of first interview
- Completion of skills assessment (involving QuickBooks and bookkeeping topics such as P&L, budgets, custom reports and more)
- Scheduling of second interview (focused on fit, experience and personality)
- Request for references
- Initiation of background check (prior to first client engagement)
Other Safeguards Against Bad Bookkeeping Hiring
Many clients who engage with BELAY for bookkeeping services are not finance, accounting or payroll experts themselves. The typical customer might be a community church, local small business or emerging nonprofit organization that has historically cobbled together these functions in-house.
By the time they have chosen to partner with an external provider, the client recognizes the benefits of external help. BELAY provides added reassurance in navigating this new territory through consistent, care-focused hand holding.
“We emphasize quality control and quality assurance at all times,” White says. “From internal oversight to technological concerns, our commitment to clients is built on integrity, first and foremost.”
Some features of BELAY’s internal controls for bookkeeping services are:
- Initial Checks and Balances – For the first three months, new BELAY bookkeepers have their assigned client accounts comprehensively reviewed. Relationship managers check for timeliness, accuracy, quality and completeness.
- Quality Reviews – Bookkeepers undergo periodic random reviews, through which their client files and records are examined for accuracy and quality. BELAY Bookkeepers have no forewarning about these surprise evaluations.
- System Backups – From a technological perspective, bookkeepers have access to private and high-value information. BELAY’s data security process includes required daily backups, overseen and monitored by a dedicated IT system administrator.
- Client Satisfaction Inventory – Clients are invited to provide feedback about their bookkeeping experience through surveys and questionnaires. Their feedback is assessed by BELAY relationship managers, who review areas like communication, continuous improvement, opportunities and overall performance.
- Bookkeeper Mentors – Experienced BELAY bookkeepers with stellar performance are assigned to mentor new, incoming team members. They model BELAY standards, share bookkeeping best practices and offer advice based on expertise and background.
- Internal Learning Opportunities – BELAY bookkeepers may also participate in company-provided webinars, online forums and social media platforms to enhance their continuous development. Webinars address topics like time management, organization and best practices, while virtual communities enable them to network with fellow bookkeepers and get expert advice, as applicable.
“Integrity and service drive are the most important features of BELAY’s bookkeeping services,” says White. “While the technical and specialized features of the role can be learned or taught, our core principles cannot. This foundation is why our success and client satisfaction rate remains above bar – among the best in the virtual solutions industry.”