Businesses are constantly evolving, adding jobs as the company grows and new requirements emerge. For example, a small business owner may initially use outside resources for accounting and finance. But at different stages, it's time to hire one or more finance experts to join the team.
Let's take a look at four accounting roles and when small business owners should recruit these finance experts:
What they do: Bookkeepers handle basic financial paperwork, such as payroll, purchases, sales, cash-flow projections and budget reports. They keep records up to date, ensure that all invoices are paid and keep an eye on cash flow. However, they’re not regulated in the same way as accountants, so they can’t certify your year-end statements or deal with the IRS.
Time to hire: Bookkeepers are the most affordable finance experts you can hire. Many small business owners employ a part-time bookkeeper from the very beginning. Then they take them on full time as their requirements increase.
Here's a tip from Grace Fidalgo, vice president for Robert Half Finance & Accounting, who is quoted in Fit Small Business: "If you are not sure how to find the right bookkeeper that suits your business’s needs, it’s best to work with a specialized recruiter to help you find the perfect bookkeeper match for you. Professional recruiters have access to passive job seekers and independent bookkeepers who may best qualify your requirements."
2. Accounting managers
What they do: Qualified accountants are finance experts who can handle any paperwork required by the government, including tax submissions and year-end statements. An accounting manager can oversee your bookkeeper as well as manage the ledger, prepare and manage reconciliations, and produce monthly, quarterly and year-end statements. One crucial duty is to develop and implement reporting systems so your finances can be monitored in a way that works best for your business. Another responsibility is to analyze your finances to make sure you are running efficiently. Accounting managers are able to report to the IRS and will deal with it if you are audited.
Time to hire: You’ll need an in-house accountant as your finances become more complicated — especially if you’re working internationally, if you are publicly listed, or if your financial reporting requires dedicated personnel. Hiring an accounting manager can seem like a costly investment, but these experts can bring returns by identifying opportunities such as tax breaks or overspending that can be curbed.
3. Financial controllers
What they do: Financial controllers provide strategic thinking. They design and implement financial procedures, giving the accounting manager a framework to work within. They also oversee budgeting and forecasting with a more long-term view than your accounting manager typically offers. Holding a senior role, they can negotiate credit terms and lines of credit for the business.
Time to hire: Controllers are valuable finance experts when your team grows in size and requires leadership — and when the finance function requires long-term vision.
What they do: CFOs are responsible for all financial affairs. They are most visible to shareholders, banks, key suppliers and customers. A CFO is often tasked with the overall development of a company. Responsibilities include identifying growth targets, preparing the business for a sale or even salvaging an underperforming business.
Time to hire: Small business owners rarely have CFOs with revenues of less than $20 million. But this role becomes essential when you want to grow quickly or plan a sale or merger, or if you need to turn around the fortunes of a failing business.
There is no set rule regarding when to hire controllers or other finance experts. But if you’re facing an objective you don’t feel equipped to handle, or if you aren’t sure your business is running at full efficiency, it’s probably time to expand your finance team.
More resources for small business owners
- Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance: How much should you expect to pay a bookkeeper, accounting manager, financial controller or CFO? Find salary data for all these positions at small, midsize and large companies.
- Think You Have Hiring Challenges? These Recruiters Share Solutions: These case studies showcase how our recruiters can help you overcome an array of hiring challenges and find highly skilled job candidates for your finance and accounting needs.
Having difficulty staffing a position? You're not alone!
Editor's note: This post was updated recently to reflect current information.