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.

Wow! I didn't know outsourcing could do this for my accountancy practice or small company…

Put business people together and it won’t be long before someone mentions outsourcing. It might be in the context of freeing time for the other activities you’re told you must do to compete in the market place. Or to do with concerns about maintaining service quality. Or even the difference between outsourcing and offshoring. Whatever the reason, the consensus is increasingly likely to favour outsourcing. And with new research showing that 1 in 4 practitioners see excessive workload as their biggest tax-year-end worry, looking closely at outsourcing for your accountancy practice or SME is highly apposite…

Along with the immediate challenges facing accountants (and anyone responsible for year-end accounts in an SME) as another tax-year-end approaches, the factors that often restrain businesses make a good starting place for a few seasonal thoughts…

What’s holding your organisation back?
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that strategy issues, weak marketing, flawed pricing, underwhelming service delivery, poor people-management, lacklustre systems and measurement of the wrong things often hold ambitious accountancy practices (and many other SMEs) back. They’re all important. In an ideal world we’d all have plenty of resource available to respond. Unfortunately, you’re probably so busy with your day-to-day, and now with the added challenge of a fast-approaching tax-year end, that you haven’t the time and resource to spend more time on them.

Imagine working on your business more
Now imagine what you’d achieve, at any time of year, if you could only do more work on the business as well as in it. Maybe outsourcing would help, especially if it freed you and your team from some or all of the book-keeping, management accounting and payroll drudgery… Even more immediately, as the year-end-tax season approaches, imagine outsourcing relieving your workload and staffing worries. If you're an accountancy professional, this will be particularly relevant if you’re among the 1 in 4 practitioners who told Bankstream and AccountingWEB that this was their biggest concern. (See the Bankstream Accountants Confidence Index at

Do you feel pressured to do more?
As an accountancy practice or an SME in another field, the pressure to do more work on your business seems relentless when you read another business improvement article reminding you that increased focus on client service, technology integration, digital mobility, talent management and succession planning, and effective implementation of social media as a business tool are vital for your future success.

Where will the time come from?
This is all good stuff, but where will the time come from to make the most of these trends, at which point it makes sense to think about the increasing importance of outsourced professional services? Whether you are an ambitious partner in an accountancy practice, or the owner manager or financial director of an SME, arranging for (trusted) others to undertake duties such as book-keeping and payroll is an accepted way to free precious senior management time for other business tasks.

Concerns about containing employment costs
The options available include hiring more full-time staff, part timers or independent contractors. And then there’s the role of offshore or UK-based outsourcing. As you consider the options, notice how the perennial management challenge of containing employment costs surfaces. So do opportunities to outsource as a way to get specific tasks done at a fraction of the cost of using staff and contractors. Not just for producing accounts, but for specialist bookkeeping with management-accounting and payroll-bureau services. And let’s not forget the currently ‘hot’ payroll-related topic of auto-enrolment.

We know outsourcing can be helpful
SMEs have a long tradition of outsourcing. Going outside for specialist services can be particularly attractive to smaller accountancy practices as well as SMEs. They’re the organisations where the cost of hiring more staff is particularly onerous – especially if those employees won’t be fully utilised throughout the year. This is even more important when, as is often the case, limited availability of staff to do the work is a greater issue than simple cost-cutting – the position many accountancy practices find themselves in as the start of 2016 approaches. Of course, saving money (and therefore making money) is important to every professional practice and company. You only have to compare typical hourly rates for accountancy professionals or the equivalent for the MD and FD of an SME against those for outsourced bookkeeping or payroll services to appreciate the attraction.

The importance of the right outsourcing partner
When you work with the right outsourcing partner (note the emphasis, this must be a suitably experienced professional with proven ability to add value), there’s another bonus. You automatically get scalability to meet your evolving requirements, whether prompted by expansion or contraction of the practice. Suddenly, we’re back with the worries and responsibilities of hiring and firing staff in response to variations in workload – and outsourcing holds the simple-but-elegant answer…. When you hire new employees, one attraction of bringing them into your team should be the skills, expertise and experience they bring. It’s the same with your outsourcing partner. Imagine, for instance, the expertise you could access by outsourcing to a ‘battle-tested’ specialist who’s seen several decades on the accountancy, book-keeping and payroll front-line.

The double-focus benefit
Whether you’re the owner-manager of a small company, a practice partner or an interim FD, there’s even more to be excited about when you consider the extra focus that professional outsourcers can bring to specialised work. They’ll also help you focus better on building and running your practice or commercial organisation. It’s like using a specialist designer, copywriter or photographer to deliver focused services. Just because bookkeeping with management accounting, or payroll-bureau services, feel closer to home than other specialisms doesn’t lessen the potential for financial, operational and strategic benefit.

Enviably specialist tools and knowledge
It’s not just about specialist skills and focused professional minds concentrating on what they do best either. That’s because you can expect your specialist outsourcing partner to have a wider range of more up-to-date and more specialised accounting, bookkeeping and payroll tools than you. Think about it. Are you really current with all the latest bookkeeping software? Or on top of every change in the already-complex laws and regulations that apply to book-keeping and payroll? Because this should be part of what outsourcing practices can focus on, they can afford to (indeed, they must) keep current with the very latest Sage, Xero or other applications that they've built their services around.

Benefits beyond next April
By the end of today, the annual year-end accounting frenzy will be even closer. Whatever your ambitions for your commercial SME or professional practice, outsourcing could play a part in reducing worries like those identified in the Bankstream/AccountingWEB research. Even more exciting, what if outsourcing enabled you to go beyond mere seasonal relief by underpinning a major step change in your performance and standing in the marketplace? Now, that really would make a special year-end! Founded in 1994, BookCheck Ltd, with 54 employees at several UK offices, successfully services the needs of business owners and directors. BookCheck is totally focussed on just two key services: Sage & Xero bookkeeping with management accounts and Payroll-bureau services with auto enrolment. To find out more about taking the hassle and worry out of your auto enrolment and payroll, call 0800 883 0711 or email us.