What does a bookkeeper do?

“So, what do you do?” It’s one of the first questions we ask upon meeting someone. My usual answer is “bookkeeping and fractional CFO”. The typical response to that is, “Okay…and what does that mean?”

Most people have a general understanding of bookkeeping is, but fractional CFO is a murkier concept. Essentially, we act as an “outsourced” CFO (Chief Financial Officer) for companies too small to have their own. Offering this service is one of the primary ways we distinguish ourselves from most bookkeepers.

However, there are several differences between what a standard bookkeeper does, and what we do.

bookkeeping month-endA bookkeeper offers monthly reconciliations at an hourly rate. The process most bookkeepers use is to, at the end of the month, have their clients bring a stack of financial documents, such as bank statements, receipts, pay stubs, etc. The bookkeeper then uses that information to make entries and perform a reconciliation. This takes time, and their clients will usually receive that past month’s financial statements about midway through the following month. Once the month’s work is completed, the client receives an invoice for the hours worked. Depending on how busy that month was, this bill fluctuates.

The Bookkeeper offers bi-weekly reconciliations at a monthly rate. Instead of waiting until month-end, we enter information downloaded from the client’s bank accounts every few days, so their financials stay more current. This prevents a long clean-up process at the end of the month, and allows us to complete the monthly financial statements more quickly. Furthermore, we offer our ongoing clients a monthly flat rate, so there are never any surprises on the bill (even when the month was a busy one).

A bookkeeper moves on and makes assumptions. Most bookkeepers focus on one specific aspect of their business, which is just getting transactions entered. If they have an expense and aren’t sure what it’s for, it gets stuck into “Uncategorized Expense” for the client to figure out later. If they’re entering payroll and see that a contractor really should be paid as a W-2 employee, they’re just going to make the entry as it’s presented to them and move on. They might make a mention of it to the client when they see them again in a few weeks but, in most cases, likely not.

Fractional CFOThe Bookkeeper pauses and asks questions. Our clients hear from us frequently. If something looks “off”, or if there are improvements to be made, we’ll bring it to the client’s attention immediately. In one account, we identified a case of credit card fraud before the bank and client did, and were able to alert them to it. We also warn clients about potential cash flow issues, or when certain bills are due, to help prevent overdraft fees and other penalties.

A bookkeeper does exactly what the client asks. That’s not a bad thing, at all. But most bookkeepers do only what the client asks, and nothing else.

The Bookkeeper proactively seeks out ways to improve our clients’ financials. On our own time (again, without charging the client a cent more), we’ve done things like developing a new pricing strategy to propose to a client having issues with their retailers. We’ve identified overdue Accounts Receivable to find clients money, and we’ve saved clients money by negotiating better vendor contracts. We’ve used our connections with merchant card processors to save clients thousands in credit card processing fees. And we have done all these things without the client ever asking us to.

Money, it is said, is a vehicle.

Airport RunwayA bookkeeper is a mechanic. They do routine maintenance. If something breaks (and you notice it), you take it to them to get fixed. If something breaks and you don’t notice it for a while, and the problems gets really big, when you take it to them to fix, you’re going to end up with an expensive bill.

The Bookkeeper is a travel agent. We help you figure out where you want to go, and we get you there. Whether you drive, cruise, or fly, we are there for you at every step of the journey. And we work to help ensure that the trip is as enjoyable as the destination.

Of course, all of this is hard to sum up in a casual introduction. That is why we offer free 1-hour initial consultations, so we can get to know prospective clients and show them the differences we have to offer.

If you know someone whose business isn’t going where they want it to go, before you send them to a bookkeeper, send them to The Bookkeeper.

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