Bookkeepers provide businesses with many basic financial services needed for compliance and long-term success. These include keeping accounting records up to date, reconciling financial statements, issuing payroll, and managing accounts receivable and accounts payable (AR/AP) services. But did you know a quality bookkeeper can – and should – provide so much more? Bookkeepers are a critical component to keep a business on track in the short term and help it plan for growth down the road. Here’s what business owners should ask their bookkeeper for more assistance with:

Records, records and more records

Beyond crunching the numbers, bookkeepers are able to provide a business’ complete set of financial records. There are several financial reports that a bookkeeper works on that contain crucial information needed to form an accurate and complete view of a company’s financial health. The reports to ask for are:

  • Profit & Loss: The P&L provides an overview of a business’ key performance factors. It provides a summary of income versus expenses and can be used to track trends over time, as well as analyze profit margin. To use the P&L to analyze trends and assess profitability, one should request the following reports: current month P&L, year-to-date P&L (broken down monthly) and current P&L itemized detail (this gives an opportunity to review/understand the transactions included in each category).
  • Balance sheet: This provides a snapshot of a company’s health at a given time. It provides an overview of assets, liabilities and owners’ equity. Several key ratios in determining a company’s health are calculated from the balance sheet, including a company’s liquidity (ability to turn assets into cash quickly), solvency (ability to pay off business debts) and profitability (ability to generate income).
  • Statement of cash flow: The revenues and expenses of a business change month to month. The P&L and balance sheets provide a lot of information, but do not allow one to track and predict with precision the available cash that may be needed, especially for new businesses. With a statement of cash flow an owner can record, track and predict the actual amount of cash the business has on hand during a specific time period.
  • AR/AP: These provide the ability to track liabilities and assets in real time. Current AR/AP reports offer information for forecasting cash availability and ensure that debts are being paid on time. They also provide an opportunity to address delinquent accounts in a timely manner.

Cash flow forecast for the business

One of the most essential tasks a bookkeeper can do for a small business is provide a cash flow forecast, which ensures the business doesn’t run out of day-to-day money. Work with a bookkeeper to create a cash flow forecast and ask that he or she keep an eye on the balance of revenues to expenses, as well as offer advice if the business needs more available cash to operate.

Assistance with tax preparation and compliance

A bookkeeper should work with a company’s CPA to ensure financial records are accurate and that the business is on track to be in the best tax position at year’s end. Schedule quarterly meetings with the CPA and bookkeeper to together review financials, make any necessary adjustments and ensure that everything is on track for year end/taxes. This collaboration will help ensure there are no surprises at tax time and that multiple individuals are reviewing the company’s financial records.

Bookkeepers can be a valuable asset to a company’s financial team and can provide services that go beyond transaction entries and data processing. Whether looking to hire a new bookkeeper or work with the current one, an owner should ensure that he or she is engaged in ongoing conversations about the financial support needed. Then determine the role the person can play in contributing to the growth and success of the company.

Gretchen Walker is an advisor at Breakaway Bookkeeping + Advising. She has more than 13 years of experience in the construction and architecture industries. Contact her at 503-810-1787 or