I’m a bookkeeper, and I love my job! No, I am not an accountant, and no, I don’t just do data entry. Bookkeeping is a profession that requires skills! What kind of skills, you may ask? I recently came across a book called “Bookkeeping in Canada“, written by Marge Wegren-Debris, a certified professional bookkeeper, and she perfectly lists her 10 ingredients that make a good bookkeeper. I had never found a list that describes myself and my expectations for my team so well, until now! So here we go:
- Honesty with High Integrity
- Detailed and Organized
- Able to Interpret Information
- Good communicator
- Good Listening Skills
- Good Follow Through
- Believes in Continuous Learning
- Able to Admit When You Don’t Know and Ask For Help
Good skills for becoming a bookkeeper
1. Honesty with High Integrity
It should go without saying, but bookkeeping work involves the highest level of honesty and integrity. Your morals in upholding not only the law, but being compliant with such things as the CRA rulings, is an absolute must. You should be a model to any business that works with you as to how important this is, and you do not want to be on the wrong side of an audit when the bookkeeping was not performed with these critical elements in place.
This characteristic also means being honest with yourself. First and foremost about whether or not this is the work you want to do. If it is, you need to be ok with not knowing everything all the time. Rules can change (especially with the CRA), so you need to be honest with yourself and any companies you work with when you don’t know the answer to something. Don’t pretend, it will come back and bite you. Instead, build a solid foundation of knowledge as well as a good “go-to” team for your resources.
2. Detailed and Organized
Success in bookkeeping will not happen without superior attention to detail and the ability to be super organized. You are dealing with the financial source documents/data/reports which are the very livelihood of a business, and they will rely on you to be able to accurately produce various information, know where things are sorted, and know how to retrieve them quickly. You cannot “slack off” at any point mentally in this work, as it will cause mistakes which can quickly harm your reputation. And the more organized you are, the more efficient you can be. These two are a must to be successful!
3. Able to Interpret Information
A question often asked in this field is “do you like numbers?”. Well, do numbers like you? What Marge refers to is if something doesn’t add up or balance, do you enjoy figuring out why? Being able to work through problems is an important part of this work. It’s like detective work, knowing where to look for clues and then knowing what needs to happen to solve the ‘mystery’. Many of us in bookkeeping will refer to this as solving the ‘puzzle’, like when a bank reconciliation doesn’t balance. The other aspect of this is caring when the numbers aren’t right. If you don’t care, this might not be the right job for you. Because our clients are relying on you to care. That’s why they hire us!
4. Good Communicator
Do you know what it’s like when someone is trying to explain something to you, and you don’t understand what they mean? That’s what we need to avoid. You need to be really clear in both verbal and written communications. One way to ensure verbal communication is clear, is to ask. With written communication, be as clear as you can but also concise. Business owners are busy and don’t like to read through pages of information to find the question buried in there. Bullet points and actionable tasks work well!
5. Good Listening Skills
This is different from being a good communicator. You need to be an incredibly good listener, as you do not want to assume anything. Listen clearly and intently. This doesn’t come overnight and takes practice, practice and practice.
- Listen to understand the request so you don’t end up working on something that wasn’t required.
- Listen to understand the problem so you can fix it accurately.
- Listen to ensure you hear the pain points the client is sharing.
Be sure to ask questions when you’re unsure or don’t understand. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength!
Have you ever been in a situation where you THOUGHT you understood the task but realized afterward — you missed the boat? Send me a quick message at email@example.com with what question could you have asked to avoid this situation!
Be sure to check back for part 2 of this blog post, where we go into the second half of the best qualities to have for being a bookkeeper!