Have you ever experienced a customer when nothing you do meets with their approval?
You bend over backwards, do work for free, run after them and in the end they still complain?
When is it time to say goodbye?
In the bookkeeping industry, there are many horror stories shared by people on the internet and by word of mouth.
The question I ask : Is it always the bookkeeper’s fault?
There are always two sides to a horror story, and blame often resides a little on both.
In my years as I bookkeeper and being in business I have seen many stories unfold before my eyes.
In principle, if a new lead starts complaining about her previous or existing bookkeeper it’s often good to step back and examine their story objectively.
Was the bookkeeper at fault, or did the customer expect much more than they were willing to pay?
Was the client misunderstood?
Asking questions, actively listening and allowing your intuition to give you the answers would be a good start.
Life changes all the time, along with expectations, time management and profitability. Good communication, asking questions and regularly clarifying expectations is extremely important in any business agreement. However, we often slide into a routine or work with little thought about what we are doing, until something goes wrong.
Here are three areas of communication breakdown that I have experienced as a bookkeeper over the years.
Do you remember the game of Chinese whispers as a kid?
The teacher gets everyone to sit in a circle and whispers a sentence in the ear of the first child who has to relay it to the next child, then the next, until the sentence is given to each child in the circle. Does the sentence finish the same as it’s beginning? Never.
When we work with a client, the principle of Chinese whispers can be repeated between both parties. We think or assume we know what the client wants, and in turn the customer has their own interpretation to any discussion. Over time, it can be just as distorted as a game of Chinese whispers. This is why putting everything in writing is extremely important.
Before beginning work, an Engagement Letter should be typed up and shared for you to sign outlining all the work that will be included on an hourly or fixed price basis.
As the agreement proceeds through the year, it’s important that good communication continues and put as much as possible into writing.
Putting everything in writing is just as important as taking the time to have a conversation on the phone, over skype or face to face.
After a face to face meeting, try to ensure that you forward an email to highlight the main points discussed.
Should either yourself or the bookkeeper have misinterpreted any part of the conversation, a written email often will allow for questions to be asked and points clarified.
There are some businesses that keep two set of books. One for the bookkeeper and another for themselves. (Click to tweet)
A fast food outlet pays rent and an additional percentage on their overall turnover to a major shopping complex. To keep their turnover down, they put up a “CASH ONLY” sign on the busiest day of the week, every so often. They do not record the revenue on these “CASH ONLY” days. Reducing their rent within a certain bracket and keeping the cash in their own pockets.
To complicate the matter further, they have some staff they pay cash in hand with no pay as you go withholding or superannuation paid.
Is it the bookkeepers fault, if the ATO (Australian Taxation Office) audits the business for a “cash economy” audit to find that the financials provided by the bookkeeper are inaccurate?
Would it be the fault of the bookkeeper if a disgruntled staff member reports the cash in hand practice with Fair Trading?
These are situations that any savvy BAS Agent needs to ask themselves before entering into an agreement with customer.
Not knowing the right questions to ask, or failing to ask questions can cause your financials to be inaccurate. (Click to tweet)
Joe the tradie is very busy working “in” his business and doesn’t have time to work “on” his business. That is why he has handed all his bookkeeping over to a bookkeeper. Joe expects the bookkeeper to know that he has a credit card that pays for all his fuel and toll road use. Joe also assumes that the bookkeeper knows that out of the two vehicles one is for private use, while the other is solely used for the business.
The bookkeeper fails to ask Joe if there are any other accounts or credit cards he hasn’t provided to her in the large pile he posted her. The bookkeeper has no idea about a work vehicle, because she was given no log book and there were no details provided that there were two vehicles associated with any of the fuel receipts provided.
Will Joe’s financials provided to the accountant at the end of the year be accurate?
Of course not!
This is why asking questions and giving honest answers are essential for accurate records.
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Amanda Hoffmann is a registered Tax Practitioner / BAS Agent No.18613005, Associate of Finance, Xero, Myob & Quickbooks Proadvisor / Trainer and a Consultant for the Australian Taxation Office.
She says she is more than just a bookkeeper with experience in real estate investing, social media, podcasting, blogging and recently recording monthly youtube episodes
Amanda loves to teach smart, easy online cloud solutions and fix messy bookkeeping. Follow her on social media and say “Hi”
BAS Agent and Bookkeeping