Do I Need a Bookkeeper or an Accountant?

Maybe you don't have the time. Perhaps you're rubbish at numbers, or just dislike working with them. If so, you're not alone. While it may seem easy enough to do yourself, it can be more difficult and time-consuming than you realise.

Many small business owners need professional support with the accounting side of things. The thing is, both bookkeepers and accountants offer support services with the financial side of running a business. So which will suit your needs best?

Bookkeeping generates data about a business' activities

Accounting transforms that data into information

What will an accountant do for your small business?

Bookkeepers record a company's day-to-day transactions, accountants verify and analyse the data. An accountant will do more than tally the numbers and make sure they match. They'll also look into the big picture, provide tactical and strategic advice, create key financial documents like profit and loss statements, and file your taxes for you. And they can act as your outsourced chief financial officer, your CFO.

What role will a bookkeeper play?

A bookkeeper does the day-to-day hands on jobs like making sure new employees file correct PayRoll information, sending out invoices in good time, followin the payments up, paying the business' bills, tracking expenses and ensuring every outgoing is recorded correctly, either using software like QuickBooks or your own accounts system.

Plenty of bookkeepers start off as data-entry experts or entry-level bookkeepers then grow their capabilities until they're experienced enough to become the go-to person for day-to-day financial records. And an experienced bookkeeper can become an accountant by studying for the professional Chartered Accountancy qualification.

Accountant or bookkeeper?

Which is best for your business? You might benefit from both. It depends on several factors. Do you need to maintain several big fixed assets or look after large amounts of inventory? How many employees do you have? As a general rule the more complex the organisation, the more people you employ, the larger your turnover, and the bigger the business is, the more important it is to make sure that your bookkeeper is supported by a good accountant.

What other qualities should you look for?

Whether you need a bookkeeper or an accountant, find someone who speaks plain English rather than legalese, financial jargon or corporate speak. Or at least someone who is willing to translate for you, since while you don't need to do the work yourself it helps if you understand what your accountant or bookkeeper is doing for you, and why.

When to make the decision?

Make the decision early. That makes much more sense that leaving it until you've already got into a pickle, or left things too late, or discovered an issue. In a nutshell, the earlier the better. You could always make a compromise, consulting an accounting pro at the start-up stage then touching base with them every quarter or half year.

Your decision matters because accurately set up books are a powerful tool for measurement and growth, where your books actually put a finger on the pulse of the business, looking way beyond basic cash expenses and income.

Still not sure? Let's talk

Still not sure which you need? It costs nothing to talk, and we'll be pleased to help you get on the right track for your particular organisation.


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