Here at DarkRoast Digital, we have been working with an online bookkeeping service called Bench Accounting (Bench.co) for over a year now. If you’re a business owner or manager it’s possible that you’ve seen their ads on social media or on T.V and like us, originally you may have been intrigued yet skeptical of the idea of working with remote bookkeeper exclusively online. Traditionally, bookkeeping is one of those services that we always thought required personal relationships and facetime.  Regardless, we decided to give Bench.co a shot and see what all of the hype was about.

First, let’s talk a little bit about what Bench Accounting is and then we’ll get into our own experience.

Self-described as “America’s largest bookkeeping service for small businesses,” and recently launched in Canada, Bench offers businesses the ability to outsource their day-to-day bookkeeping tasks. Most small and even many medium-sized businesses do not produce enough volume to warrant keeping a full-time accountant or bookkeeper on staff. As a result, this type of online bookkeeping and accounting solution represents an innovative alternative to working with the neighborhood bookkeeper. Although their services can be customized to meet the needs of the client, their available features include the following:

Autonomous Bookkeeping – By humans

Your business provides statements and transactions each month and a team of Bench bookkeepers compiles it into necessary reports and data. The important thing to stress here is that there are actually people doing your bookkeeping, facilitated through their own proprietary software.

Your own personal accountant/bookkeeper – Again, human.

Bench matches you with your own personal bookkeeper who personally manages all of your bookkeeping needs. And most importantly for us – Remnids your of what you need to do and when. It’s generally the same experience you would get from your friendly local bookkeeper, except all communication is managed online through their software, which includes a real-time chat feature.

Detailed Financial Statements

You can access monthly income statements and balance sheets with descriptive categories make it easy to track changes and monitor financial progress over time.

Visual Reports

Reports displaying income, expenses, and profits make it simple to recognize patterns and trends in your finances as well as summarize complicated financial activity.

Year-End Financial Package

In addition to the monthly reports, Bench provides a comprehensive annual report for use when filing income taxes (For U.S and Canadian tax agencies). The report outlines the usual data plus a general ledger, trial balance, and journal entry summary.

Prior to working with Bench, this was our biggest pain point that we were eager. Previous tax seasons had been a mess.

Expert Advice

Their dedicated team of bookkeepers have extensive experience and are available to provide support and answers to your questions. In the event of an audit, they’ve got you covered.

Intuitive Software

Modern, innovative software allows businesses to access and transfer records online or even on their phone. Secure data transfer, easy categorization, and effective messaging are all focal points.

CPA Support

The Bench staff is available to field questions from your CPA during tax time – coordinating with your other professionals to ensure a seamless transition of information.

So now that you understand what Bench.co offers, here’s our experience working with them

What brought us to Bench.co

Over the first two years that we were in business, we cycled through a seemingly endless parade of bookkeepers, never managing to find a good fit. The main problem was simply the complexity of our business – half brick and mortar creative agency and half SaaS (Software as a Service) company, plus some custom-built eCommerce software, and about a dozen third-party applications and APIs – Even I had a hard time keeping up with how money was coming and going. All the bookkeepers we had worked with up to that point had struggled to understand our financial processes and the nuances of our business. Frankly, I don’t blame them.

Initial Contact

We were at a point in the lifecycle of our business where it had become clear that we needed to take some tasks off our plate to allow us to focus on the things we do best. Bookkeeping seemed like a good place to start. I found Bench Accounting through a simple search for bookkeepers specializing in start-ups. As someone who designs websites for a living, I put a lot of stock in the appearance and functionality of a company’s website. On that count, I was immediately impressed – visually attractive, yet simple and informative.

I arranged a phone meeting to feel them out, which is something I do more often that I would like to admit. Even for products and services I will likely not use, I seem to have a fascination with learning about the offerings and inner workings of other businesses. So if someone is willing to call and talk to me about their business, even if it’s a sales pitch, I’m listening. Once again, impressive, as the sales rep was friendly and casual while still providing detailed answers to all my questions. In particular, I was surprised to find out that they had experience with all the systems were currently using, such as Square, Stripe, QuickBooks, and even Braintree.

Getting Started

Demo Bench.co Software UI

With little resistance, I agreed to start a free trial which led to another pleasant phone call to get the onboarding process started. Upon getting my first real look at the Bench bookkeeping software, I was immediately impressed, both as a business owner and web designer. I had feared that integration between our system and theirs would be a nightmare, but it was surprisingly simple to connect all of our bank accounts and various financial systems to their software. I was then introduced to our dedicated bookkeeper, Pan, and was informed that she would handle it from there. To my great surprise, considering our past experiences with other bookkeepers, that turned out to be completely true. I was quite amazed at how quickly Pan grasped all the intricacies of our business. Between her expertise and the superb software, within 15 minutes we were up and running, and the whole transition has been decidedly easy and seamless.

Monthly Bookkeeping

With all systems in place, the monthly process is straightforward and simple. She is able to access the vast majority of our information directly through QuickBooks, Square, PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, and our online banking. While we still use QuickBooks for invoicing and payroll, it has been no trouble for Bench to integrate this into their system as well. Every now and then, Pan messages us if she needs clarification or additional information but, for the most part, things simply chug along like a well-oiled machine.

The most valuable part of the experience for our business is their ability to help us stay on top of what needs to be done without creating too much additional work on our end. We were the type of managers that needed constant reminders of when and what to provide, and bench.co has very effectively engineered that process.

There really is not much to be said about the ongoing activity, and that’s a good thing. Even with the standard monthly check in from Pan, and the billing statement, it’s easy to forget that there are people working away behind the scenes on our bookkeeping. To go from spending hours every week on our books to essentially, “setting and forgetting” was nerve-racking at first but got a lot easier after a couple of months.

Now, I can honestly say that our monthly bookkeeping is something that we think about very little but still have the utmost confidence that it’s being taken care of.

The Verdict: We LOVE IT.

We have not yet been through a tax season as a client of Bench, but based on our experience so far, I expect it to be our easiest and least stressful to date. As far as bookkeeping services, software, and customer support go, you will probably not be surprised to hear we give them a solid 9 out of 10. The amount of time and effort we have been able to re-direct into other areas of our business thanks to their efficiency and intuitiveness, has made their monthly fee feel like a tremendous value. All in all, we cannot recommend Bench’s services highly enough and strongly advise checking them out for yourself.

In the interests of transparency, Bench offers a $150 referral fee. However, I must stress that this generous offer has had no influence on our conclusions whatsoever. The link above is our referral link. I want to be very clear to not take away from the core message here. We do absolutely LOVE Bench and that’s why we wrote this article; to spread the good word of Bench Accounting, not to try to cash in on the referral program. Regardless of what you may think our intentions were, I still strongly recommend trying out Bench for yourself. But if you appreciate the review and want to contribute to our dog food fund, then go ahead and use our referral link to take advantage of their free trial.