February 2016

At last, someone understands my book-keeping worries…

Book-keeping should be simple. Something that, once set up with a professional partner, you barely need to think about. Why should you have to, when there are so many other business tasks demanding your valuable time and attention as you grow your SME? Too often, however, what should be a straightforward business service causes more problems than it solves. Here are some of the issues that SMEs and their accountants face – and a surprisingly achievable vision of the dream book-keeper…

Depending on what you do, the reason for your interest in quality book-keeping will probably vary. As an accountancy practice you need book-keepers to give you ‘the numbers’. If you’re a financial director it’s accurate, timely ‘quality data’ to support business-critical decisions. And as an SME owner-manager you need to be able to count on your book-keeper… Can you? Honestly?

Which book-keeping concerns do you recognise?
Here, taken directly from your world, the world of accountants, FDs and SME business owners, are some common concerns. Which can you identify with?

Will your book-keeping service always be wrong?
Have you ever worried that you’ll have to budget time and management expertise to check their output and ‘fix’ the numbers before they’re usable? Lots of SMEs and accountants do; are you among them?

What’s the real value added (or not) by your book-keeper? 
At one end of the scale, they could even be costing you money, which should be unthinkable. Covering their own cost would be good enough, but adding measurable value to your business (and bottom line) really would be something. Does it happen? If your experience is the same as many SMEs, that would be a big fat ‘no’.

In many business areas, what were once mainly operational services are now business-critical strategic tools. For instance, in enlightened organisations, information and communications technology (ICT) has gone from being a hardware-focused operational tool to a strategically important unified-communications model where the roles of financial and IT management converge.

It’s the same for book-keeping and related services. Once, book-keepers were generally little more than clerks, secreted away in SMEs’ back offices, or working from home, to ‘count the beans’. Technology has changed, but for many businesses the role remains the same. That’s a shame when it could be so different, which for enlightened businesses with enlightened book-keeping partners it certainly is! Are you among them? If not, why not?

By the way, accountants may wish to imagine the value they could add for clients by providing reliable book-keeping service – and the efficiencies they’d enjoy from knowing data was spot-on, every time.

Is book-keeping data doing enough for your organisation?
For many SMEs, using accounting data has barely progressed beyond preparing VAT returns and basic annual accounts. MDs and FDs like you often know data could do more for their business; they just don’t seem to be able to get beyond the basics. And all the time, they probably suspect their closest competitors are harnessing data for competitive advantage… Ever had that feeling?

If you’re an accountant, look at the opportunity this way. Even if you don’t have the in-house resource or desire to do book-keeping, you could appoint a suitably experienced and reliable book-keeping and MI partner to deliver the service for you. Your client gets the business-empowering data they need. And you get the accurate raw data required for a profitable additional revenue stream. Everyone wins…

Does continuity keep you awake at night?
If there’s any business function that needs continuity it’s book-keeping. But when your latest book-keeper leaves suddenly after three months, or can’t do the hours you need, you may vow never to go down this route again. Yet those records must still be maintained and data prepared…
As an accountant, do any of your clients show signs of this? Imagine using a skilled book-keeper to solve their problem and make your offer even more irresistible…

Has the quality of your book-keeper ever been questioned?
As an SME owner or manager, have you ever had that conversation where you query your accountants’ bill – and they respond by criticising the quality of your book-keeper? To add insult to injury, it’s probably your fault for employing a book-keeper who isn’t up to the task.

These are just some of the concerns that users of book-keepers report. Imagine overcoming these; now add all the other things a professional, independent book-keeping service could do for you – not least if using a higher-calibre book-keeper would facilitate better management information and improved strategic decision-making. And if it would give you more time to focus on doing business…

Reality or unattainable dream?
If you’ve ever experienced less-than-perfect book-keeping, this may seem idealistic and unrealistic.

Please think again. And welcome to the world of dependable book-keepers, generating numbers you can trust and quality data that drives profitable business decisions. Your accountants will love the change too – it might even mean a lower bill next year (or more strategic input for the same fee).

We’re not on a unicorn hunt here! Such book-keepers really do exist. Best of all you don’t have to be a Unilever or Johnson Matthey (first and second in Management Today’s Britain’s Most Admired Company 2015) to enjoy dream book-keeping! Let’s see what one of these paragons look like?

You’ll know a dream book-keeper when you find one
Having identified some of the gripes associated with many book-keepers, let’s imagine what a perfect book-keeper looks like. Here are five key characteristics to look for:

They’re reliable and their data is super-accurate
Best of all, you don’t need to double-check their work. Instead, your team, from MD to junior staff, can get on with doing what they do best (dream book-keepers can always prove their capabilities with verifiable client references and testimonials).
And at risk of repeating ourselves, you’ll also be helping your accountants to do a better job for you.

They deliver more than just accurate numbers
The best book-keepers also add measurable value, generate data that supports tough strategic decisions and understand running an SME. Why? Because knowing this makes sure everything they do is relevant to SMEs like yours.

And if you’re an accountant? Having access to an amazing book-keeper enables you to offer their service (and the benefits we’ve identified) to clients. You may also be pleasantly surprised with the efficiencies and extra performance that a book-keeper’s super-users can drag out of standard and specialist accounting software alike.

They have the resources to meet your requirements
They’ll be able to meet your current and future book-keeping and MI requirements with ease. You can say goodbye to worries about them retiring, leaving for new pastures, or getting out of their depth as your book-keeping needs evolve. Instead, skilled, experienced professionals deliver your integrated book-keeping and management information service with all the capacity and capability to meet the needs of your growing business. That’s good for continuity when you have ambitious growth plans…

The quality of their work is consistently high
What’s more, that same quality contributes to the lowest possible accountancy fee in line with meeting your book-keeping requirements. Actually, it could be even better. That’s because practices like BookCheck can help with your management information too.

So, are you ready to benefit from a fully integrated bookkeeping-management and management-information service?

Dream book-keepers inspire confidence
They give you priceless peace of mind too. You know the feeling: that ‘Goldilocks moment’ when a supplier does everything just right without reminders – then delivers more than you expected. Or the ‘Eureka!’ moment when you realise how the right book-keeping partner could be the catalyst for much-needed growth in your accounting firm.

How can my perfect book-keeper help?
Although the services offered by an experienced book-keeping and MI specialist are similar for SMEs and accountancy firms, the way their expertise benefits clients varies.

Owners and managers of SMEs
SMEs typically want more accurate, reliable book-keeping that will make life simpler (and less costly at annual fee time), without the risks and vulnerabilities of traditional small-time book-keeping. Also important is access to more powerful strategic decision making, using sophisticated data is also important. Most expectations come down to peace of mind, enhancing competitive advantage and being able to get on with working on the business without constantly worrying about what’s happening in the business – with book-keeping for instance.

For accountancy practices, the appeal of specialist book-keepers and management information experts lies in the ability to offer these services to their clients without having to run expensive in-house resource. By controlling the quality and sophistication of data from a reliable book-keeper, the accountants can work more efficiently – that’s in their interests as well as their clients’.

Either way, imagine the difference when you entrust your book-keeping to a partner with a pedigree like this:

  • Well-established and experienced.
  • FCA-qualified senior management.
  • IS0 9001 Quality Assurance.
  • Lots of highly-qualified staff in strategically-located offices.
  • Specialists in SMEs turning over more than £500k.
  • Proven reporting formats.
  • Demonstrable Cloud-based expertise.
  • Hundreds of clients facing similar challenges to you.
  • Specialising in elevating clients from poor bookkeeping to quality MI.

Get more for your book-keeping budget
Whether your business is an SME or a progressive accountancy practice, hiring a book-keeper who ticks the relevant boxes is a sure way to get more out of book-keeping budget.

Imagine if, as a go-getting accountancy practice, you could offer book-keeping services with confidence – without worrying about trying to do so with limited internal resource. Or perhaps you have a vision of adding high-end value for clients. This includes the ones whose day-to-day accounts are so poor that adding real value is currently impossible.) In cases, long-established, forward-thinking book-keeping and MI specialists hold the answer.

And what about being able to recommend excellent book-keeping without concerns about continuity risks or damaging your reputation? Or putting the problems of policing standards, methodology and delivery speed of independent book-keepers behind you?

There’s more. As ambitious accountants, imagine  elevating mid-tier clients from ‘start-up style’ book-keeping to more strategically-valuable (and more profitable) high-end services, including sophisticated MI. Above all, imagine your new confidence and competitive advantage if you know you can rely on a consistent book-keeping ‘product’ every month.

This is real and achievable
This isn’t the stuff of utopian thinking around the water cooler, or text-book idealism. Whether you are an accountant or a user of accountants’ services, It’s time to turn your wildest book-keeping, accounting and management information fantasies into business-empowering strategic realities.

Accountants and SMEs of the UK, look closely and open your mind to the reality that your dream book-keeper may be closer than you ever imagined.


Since 1994, BookCheck Ltd, with 54 employees at several UK offices, has successfully serviced the needs of business owners and directors, and outsourced specialist services to the accounting profession. BookCheck is totally focused on two key services: Sage & Xero bookkeeping with management accounts and payroll-bureau services with auto enrolment. To learn more about solving your book-keeping niggles for ever, call 0800 883 0711 or email us.

Auto Enrolment Latest – Accountants behind the curve

I attended an auto enrolment presentation by Star Payroll on Monday. One of the speakers was Henry Tapper from Pension PlayPen whose analysis shows that the transfer of responsibilities from financial advisers to accountants and payroll bureaux intermediaries is happening far slower than expected.

But things could be about to change, drastically.

Of the intermediaries surveyed, Pension PlayPen reckons only 3% were accountants but 51% were financial advisers. This compares with NEST’s survey which showed that 49% of employers with 2016 staging dates said they expected to obtain their AE advice from accountants and payroll bureaux and only 14% from IFAs.

Arguably the reasons are a mixture of slow action by employers, worries about risk and lack of knowledge. Yet there is an avalanche of businesses scheduled to stage between now and May 2017. So there’s going to be a massive struggle to cope with the numbers – that’s inescapable. This is likely to lead to errors, increased costs, stress and possibly even fines.

Yet it’s not difficult if you know how – like most things in life. But working out how is probably difficult.

What is set to make the situation a lot worse is that IFAs are retreating from the marketplace as there is less and less to be earned as payroll sizes shrink.  A nasty shock is going to be the increased costs, especially as a percentage of current fees. For a small business fees could double, in addition to the actual pension deductions.

Of course the whole burden of extra costs falls on employers, not employees.

What seems only recently to have become clear is that intermediaries are in fact allowed to advise employers (but not employees) in a non regulated environment. Whether or not many actually do so remains to be seen as naturally there will be a reluctance to recommend a choice of pension provider as that would seem to be a commercial risk. Still that leaves scope for just plain advice.

The one big lesson so far is that it’s madness to use middleware – software between the payroll and the pension provider. It might have been a good idea at the time but it adds enormously to cost, time and hassle. AE must be an integral part of payroll, otherwise…

The good news is that by the middle of 2017 the dust will be settling. In the meantime our advice is to choose a payroll bureau that is fully up to speed and is positively keen to do it.

Anthony Pilkington

Managing Director

Payroll Services

BookCheck Ltd


This entry was posted in Payroll and tagged in Auto-Enrolment, Payroll, BookCheck by bookchadmin