Who to Choose for your Small Business? Bookkeeper vs. Accountant. vs Contract Controller

Depending on the size and the lifecycle of your business, there are multiple options for how to manage the company’s financial operations. Most small businesses and startup ventures only need a bookkeeper in their earliest stages to produce basic financial statements. As your business continues to grow, you may eventually need multiple bookkeepers, a certified public accountant, or a tax accountant to help keep your accounting records and tax situation in tip-top shape. It is possible as your business grows that you feel the need to secure more complex financing, and then it may be time to consider hiring a financial controller.

How you structure the financial operations will depend on your goals, your available resources, and the people you already have on staff and their expertise. In larger or more mature companies, each role has specific duties to perform. Determining whether your company needs all three will depend on your assessment of the breadth, depth, and complexity of your financial needs.

At the end of the day when deciding if your company needs a bookkeeper, an accountant, or a contract controller there is one thing to keep in mind. The goal is always the same. Your small business needs to take care of the nuts and bolts of bookkeeping and compliance and get the financial intelligence that provides true insight into your business that yeps you make more informed strategic business decisions. Some of this financial intelligence may include dependable month end close, management reports, and KPIs,

Below we have highlighted some of the differences between hiring a bookkeeper, an accountant, and financial controllers. Each of these positions plays a crucial role in the financial management of a business, however, the actual responsibility of each role varies quite a bit.

What Does a Bookkeeper Do?

In simple and very general terms, a bookkeeper will likely be the person that assists you with the ongoing financial recording and transactions that keep your business running smoothly. Depending on the size of the business, it could mean simply processing one type of account, such as accounts payable. It could also mean processing all of the business’s accounting paperwork, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, inventory accounts and payroll. In very small businesses, the bookkeeper’s role might be expanded to producing basic income statements and other financial statements.

Some tasks that are regularly undertaken by your bookkeeper can include:

• Processing invoices, receipts, payments, and other financial transactions

• Processing and maintaining your payroll system

• Preparing initial financial statements

• Reconciling accounts and preparing reconciliation reports

• Managing your accounts receivable and accounts payable, i.e. amounts owing by debtors, and amounts owing to creditors

• Calculating GST

• Preparing and lodging your BAS

• Designing, establishing and reviewing accounting system

The nature of the work demands accuracy in a bookkeeper’s role, as well as an understanding of the relationship between double-entry books and various accounting ledgers. The role can either be filled by a full-time in-house employee of the business or through an outsourcing firm, such as Limitless Investment and Capital, which can often help your small business cut costs as well as deliver a custom plan to your business’s unique needs.

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What Does an Accountant Do?

Depending on the size of the business, an accountant may do some of the same duties as a bookkeeper. Typically, however, accountants have a four-year college degree and have a higher level of expertise and experience than bookkeepers.

The primary task of accountants, which extends to all the others, is to prepare and examine financial records. Duties include analyzing data, finance reports, budgets, tax returns, and accounting records. An accountant reports findings to management regarding finances and sometimes may make suggestions to become more financially efficient or stable. Accountants and auditors perform overviews of the financial operations of a business in order to help it run efficiently.

It should be noted that a Certified Public Accountant and an Accountant is not the same thing. To become a CPA, you must complete additional educational testing and requirements necessary for that designation. The difference between a CPA and a regular accountant is that only CPAs can write an audited financial statement, such as a balance sheet or income statement.

What does a Controller Do?

Think of the financial controller as the quarterback of the team, or the chief accountant of a company. He or she has control over and responsibility for any other accountants and bookkeepers. As an accountant, the controller is responsible for interpreting the meaning of a company’s financial statements and data, as well as ensuring its accuracy.

A controller is a key financial advisor who would be expected to give the top management team advice on any number of issues relating to the business’s financial situation or the regulatory climate, such as proper staffing levels, expense controls, fraud controls, and tax strategy.

The controller is ultimately the person responsible for ensuring financial statements and balance sheets are recorded, reconciled, and delivered to the appropriate stakeholders. One of the most crucial responsibilities of a financial controller is budgeting and monitoring performance throughout the year against the annual budget. This is a key factor that any business owner or executive team needs to track to ensure the company is operating accounting to the master plan.

A financial controller ensures that your small business’s accounting systems and processes comply with generally accepted accounting principles, help reduce risk and manage cash.

Limitless Investment and Capital Outsourced Business Growth Strategies

At Limitless Investment and Capital, our experts understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to building a successful business. Some companies have grown to a position where a financial controller/ CFO is necessary to solidify long-term strategies. Smaller companies that are just starting out may do well with simple bookkeeping services. Whatever your unique business needs are, we are confident our team can get it done! Get in touch today to learn more about our pricing and packages.