Your Bookkeeper Walked Out – 6 Steps to a 2 Week Recovery

Having a bookkeeper walk out on you without notice can be a very difficult fire to put out.

Yet in this climate, there are a few things you can do to get back up and running quickly.

I recently helped a client facilitate a transition to a new bookkeeper, and found a few things to be very valuable in the process.

Step 1 – Hire a Temp

Temporary staffing firms, such as Account Temps, help clients with this issue on a regular basis. They have temporary bookkeepers and controllers waiting on the sidelines, ready to work on a day’s notice. And usually it’s very cost effective, somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-30 per hour depending on the experience of the person you need. If your business operations depend on the accounting work being done on a regular basis, don’t try and wait for the new hire to be on board. Best case scenario, it will take 2 weeks to get the right person hired and working.

Step 2 – Assess The Need

Do you really still need a full-time bookkeeper?  How much of this position could be outsourced to a bookkeeping firm? Contracting this work to a bookkeeping firm all but eliminates the continuity issue and worry of your next bookkeeper walking out. If you decide that you’d like to keep the position in house, assess the duties that the new person will be performing. Often times a bookkeeper can take on a sort of “Office Manager” type of role, in addition to their accounting tasks. Which of these other, non-accounting tasks can either be eliminated or performed by somebody else? Reducing the job description is a good way to cut the hours needed and save some money moving forward.

Step 3 – Put Out Some Ads

Assuming you want to fill the open position with a new employee, you need to get some candidates lined up for interviews. My personal opinion is that Monster and Career Builder are rarely useful in filling bookkeeper positions. Utilizing free tools will get you more resumes than you can handle. I recommend the following:

  • Post the job description on Craigslist. Every few days be sure to re-post so it stays toward the top of search results. I’ve heard plenty of debate as to whether Craigslist yields a good response from qualified candidates. While I can’t vouch for every type of position, I can say that Craigslist works for bookkeepers. They are the type of people that use Craigslist, it’s just that simple. They’re looking for local opportunities with small businesses, exactly what the Craigslist jobs section includes.
  • Post the job description in local LinkedIn groups and as a status update on your profile. Many job seekers patrol these groups, but the real benefit is that somebody always knows somebody else. People will see the job opening, and you’ll get responses along the lines of “Hey, I saw your posting for a bookkeeper and I know Suzy Johnson would really be interested. I’ll pass along the info to her!”
  • Consider emailing some of your personal contacts. I wouldn’t email clients, as you may not want to alert them to any disruptions within your business. But other contacts may know somebody that would be a great fit for the position.

Step 4 – Interview the Right Candidates

If you’re aggressive in posting the job description as outlined above, you should receive well over 100 resumes. Find the best 5 or 6 that have the position and industry experience that you need.  Schedule interviews with them, and let them know that you intend to move quickly in filling the position. Use a scripted set of questions for the first round of interviews, so you get a good baseline by which to compare each of the candidates. Certainly an entire book could be written on interviewing techniques, philosophy, and the like. It’s great to perform certain psychological and character tests, but if you don’t have those things in place just yet there’s not much you can do. (But you should put in place a more structured hiring process for next time)

Step 5 – Transition the New Employee Into the Business

Don’t just let the temp go as soon as your new hire is brought in. Over the last couple weeks, the temp has learned most of the ins and outs of your accounting operation. Let them stay on another week or so to train in the new bookkeeper. This way you can return to running your business and the new hire will be up to speed very quickly. Sure, it will cost you a bit more to keep the temp around longer. But it will be well worth it.

Step 6 – Document Your Bookkeeping Processes

A huge part of the headache with replacing bookkeepers is that companies often don’t have any documented processes. So when one person leaves, the next person spends days/weeks/months trying to figure out how things were done. This can really throw a wrench into things. If you’re proactive, and establish a protocol for the department, you can avoid this and cut down the learning curve immensely. Have your bookkeeper begin to document the things that they do, building a how-to manual of sorts for their position. Keep in mind that people often resist creating instructions for their position, as they see it as a threat. “Why should I have to do this, won’t I be here forever,” they think. We as business owners know that nobody lasts forever, and it’s always good to have a backup plan. What if this person is in an accident tomorrow? Wouldn’t they want the company to keep moving forward without them?

The sudden departure of any employee always poses challenges, and a position as important as the bookkeeper is certainly high on the list. But by following these steps, I’ve seen firsthand that you can quickly get back up and running.

Leave a Reply