I often ask myself, “are bookkeeping emergencies really a thing?” I like to answer this question with a No.
If we are communicating with our clients, and we have our procedures and processes in place, there should be no emergencies such as pressing bill payments, payroll submitted at the eleventh hour, or last minute compliance filings.
I once worked as the bookkeeper for a small 12-unit condo homeowner’s association (HOA). The HOA had contracted to have a number of deferred maintenance projects completed and there were several workmen visiting the property in a condensed period of time.
Each worker had a contract with the HOA for services rendered, signed by the HOA president. However, no matter how often I asked, said president failed to provide me with copies of the signed contracts in a timely manner, so I could not prepare the deposit payments or have a feel for when the work would be completed.
The HOA president would call me and request I print a check and mail it to her for the deposit, but then when the work was completed she would call and ask me to hand-deliver a check for signature for the balance due, stating it was "an emergency.”
No matter how often I checked-in with her regarding the status of projects, or even if I gave her some checks she could complete by hand,and I would enter them in the books after-the-fact, there was always some "emergency." I speak of this client in the past tense, because I resigned as their bookkeeper.
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If a client is not trainable, calls or texts me at all hours of the day or night or weekend and never seems to have their act together despite my coaching and coaxing, they are not a good fit for my practice. I hear other bookkeepers talk about how they bend over backwards to assist their clients and all of the outside-of-the-box situations which pop up, which they handle.
I know that I would also help my clients out, especially in the case of a true emergency, like the time one of my clients was hospitalized due to a stroke. Her husband called me and I gladly went to their office several times to train their son to do the work the mother had been doing. This was a true emergency situation.
If this assessment sounds harsh, I would re-frame it as sounding realistic. I am running a business too and I expect my clients to behave in a professional manner, the same way they expect me to. It may have taken me a long time to get to this place, but I am no longer am willing to be at the beck and call of clients who always create a fire, and then need my help to put it out.
When I find I’m lying in bed worrying about a client or about situations which they have repeatedly created due to their lack of responsiveness to my inquiries or their own bad habits, then I know it is time to resign the account.
If you have clients who keep you awake at night, it may be time to ask yourself if the client is worth the trouble. In my quest for work-life balance, I prefer to work with clients who appreciate my work, value my time and respond to my queries in a timely manner. Those are the ones for whom I will go the extra mile.
No longer will I continuously drop everything for a client who doesn’t appreciate the effort and who falls into a pattern of always having "emergencies." Will you?
Jody Linick is an AIPB Certified Bookkeeper and a QuickBooks® Certified Pro Advisor. Her company, FitBooks Pro (formerly called Linick Consulting), specializes in remote bookkeeping services using hosted QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online. You can find her series of Blog posts here.