You are a business owner who needs help with business finances but does not know where to start. You have heard several financial professional services tossed around like:
- Financial Accountant
- Tax professional
- Financial planner
- Accounting technology expert
You have also heard many accounting duties tossed around like:
- Weekly accounting
- Monthly accounting
- Quarterly accounting
- Year-end accounting
- Tax planning
- Retirement planning
- Accounting software setup and automations
Are you overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. All business owners have been in a similar situation. This blog should provide you a roadmap on how to make the right match with a financial professional that best fits your needs.
Let’s create a 3-step plan so that you can understand the relationship between all these terms and how to best manage your small business finances.
3 Steps to Choose the Right Financial Professional for Your Small Business
Step #1: Identify what each financial professional does
The three most commonly used terms for accounting professionals are bookkeeper, accountant, and tax professional. Let’s dive into each one so you can better understand their role. If you want to watch a detailed explanation of what each professional does, check out my 8-minute video here.
Bookkeeper: Records accounting transactions
Responsible for recording company’s accounting transactions to maintain a real-time general ledger for current and future financial business decisions; may possibly be a trained expert in the accounting technology they use to record transactions (i.e. QuickBooks ProAdvisor).
Financial Accountant: Provides business insights
Analyzes and transforms the bookkeeper’s financial data into financial insights to discuss topics such as business performance and increasing profitability; may possibly provide additional services like tax planning and retirement planning, if qualified to do so.
Tax Preparer: Keeps your business tax compliant
Prepares, calculates and files income tax returns on behalf of individuals and businesses; may possibly represent the taxpayer during IRS examinations, if qualified to do so.
One common misconception is that the financial professional you are currently using, which is most often a tax preparer, is trained and qualified to do the work of a bookkeeper and/or a financial account. If those are additional services you require, you will need to research the professional first and then confirm that this professional provides the services required to fulfill your small business needs. That brings us to Step #2: identifying what accounting tasks need to get done.
Step #2: Identify what accounting tasks need to get done
There are two important items to consider when evaluating which accounting tasks need to get done. The first is what needs to get done and the second is who is going to do it.
Let’s cover each one separately.
What needs to get done:
- Tracking income and expenses, which includes but is not limited to the following:
- Keeping/scanning/filing source documents
- Creating invoices, collecting income, make deposits
- Paying bills, managing vendors
- Recording transactions in real-time into an accounting software
- Reconciling all bank, credit card and liability accounts at month end
- Review and analyze monthly financial statements
- Calculating and paying business tax obligations like sales tax, payroll tax, income tax
For a comprehensive list, check out the QuickBooks Blog Small Business Accounting Checklist and Infographic.
Who is going to do it:
- Hire a bookkeeper to assist with accounting duties such as :
- Weekly and/or monthly income an expense record keeping
- Month-end accounting reconciliations and financial statement preparation
- Provide online cloud-based collaboration for real-time accounting data access
- Hire an accountant for the big picture conversations such as:
- Cash flow projections and forecasting
- Growth strategies
- Tax planning and high-level financial management advice (i.e salary increases)
- Business entity structure decisions and tax implications
- Capital expenditures or access to capital
- Corporate reporting and compliance
- Compilations and audited financials
- Hire a tax preparer to keep your business tax compliant in areas such as:
- Sales taxes, payroll taxes, quarterly estimated taxes and annual income tax return
Now you may be asking yourself: aren’t there financial professionals that do ALL three areas? The answer is YES, but they are usually larger accounting firms that have a staff of people that can assist in these very different areas. You may also find sole practitioners who provide all three services as well, but this is less common. For this reason, doing your research and then directly asking follow-up questions regarding a professional’s current services is very important. So let’s wrap this up with final step#3: find the financial professional that services your small business needs.
Step #3: Find the financial professional that services your small business needs
Below are a few tips on how to go searching:
- Start with your network: ask a few successful business owners in your network who they use and how their accountant has contributed to their business success
- Search Google financial professionals that specialize in your industry/niche and review their services in detail based on your specific needs
- Utilize online accountant databases like Intuit Quickbooks Find An Accountant: it has segmented financial professionals based on their services, expertise, and locations. Check out this 5-minute video on how to navigate so you can search like a PRO!
- Utilize the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers which provides a list of preparers in your area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS
Now that you understand what each financial professional does and have evaluated your own small business accounting needs, you can focus more clearly on the best fit for your unique situation. A recent Intuit, Inc. study stated that the odds for small business financial success go up by 89% if the small business works with an accounting professional. Let’s guarantee that you are part of this success statistic by making the right match for your business!