A bookkeeper’s tale.
Imagine this scene.
You are in a Staples store and you notice a bright young woman milling about the accounting and bookkeeping software. She asks a clerk which one they’d recommend as she’s new to bookkeeping. He chooses one of the top selling packages saying, “A lot of people seem to like this one.” Sold. But before our shopper proceeds to checkout she tells our clerk that she has to stop by the printing department and pick up her new business cards.
“Business cards you say. That sounds exciting. New business?” asks the clerk.
“What kind of work do you do?”
“I’m launching a bookkeeping business. I’m kinda good with numbers and thought I’d give it a try.”
Now I don’t know about you, but if I saw something like that it would send shivers down my spine. This person obviously has next to no experience and yet she’s prepared to hang out her shingle and proclaim to the world I’m a bookkeeper, hire me.
If you knew this about this person and they came to you looking to handle your books and records would you hire them? Probably not I would guess and yet that’s what many businesses are doing.
Now, this isn’t a true story, but is it that farfetched?
It isn’t really, because in Canada there is no formal certification process for bookkeepers. The result? Anyone can purchase some accounting software, print some business cards, and call themselves a bookkeeper. Most other business professionals have certifications-lawyers, accountants, doctors, engineers. So why not bookkeepers and why do I consider this so important? Perhaps a true story from my own experience will help.
200 Resumes! You’ve Got to Be Kidding?
Recently, I was looking to hire bookkeepers, so I advertised.
And wow, did we get interest. Initially we had over 200 applications for that bookkeeping position! Through our own specific hiring process we got that number down to a more manageable 25. I have a lot of other duties to handle rather than look over 200 resumes, don’t you? And numerous studies have shown that it is one of the least favourite tasks of busy managers and business owners. I agree.
We also have a test candidates must pass. A practical one on accounting software (we support two – Sage 50 and QuickBooks – they can do the test on one or both) and a written test to test their bookkeeping knowledge. Do they know what happens behind the scenes when they press Enter.
Only two candidates passed. Yes, you read that right. Only two.
So you might ask: is our test too hard? In a word, no.
If they know their subject, believe me, it’s passable. I know from experience that many people overestimate or embellish their abilities on their resume. In the past, I’ve seen any number of “bookkeepers” who claim 5, 10, 15 years of experience and within a week of hiring them it’s clear they don’t know what they’re doing and I have to let them go.
So long story short, that’s why we developed our own certification test. To separate the wheat from the chaff or as my business partner, owner of e-Commerce Essentials, says to separate the data entry clerks from the bookkeepers.
And why is this so?
I believe having your financial information done by a qualified bookkeeper is critically important to the health and growth of your business.
Do you think it’s time for certification of bookkeepers in Canada?
Copyright: olegdudko / 123RF Stock Photo
Juliet, I am not certified. I used to work as a freelance bookkeeper, and now I am the controller of a private school with 800 students and 180 employees. How would certification be enforced? There are plenty of people who call themselves accountants who are not accredited? When I was a freelancer I was never asked about certification. We have discussed informally where I trained (a $900 online course, which was really US based, with a couple of Canadian updates). I have continued training on my own, because I wanted to advance, as I have. Until the consumers, namely small businesses recognize the need for some sort of certification, and are willing to pay a little extra to get it, I don’t think that there will be any real drive for certification.