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Every so often I see an underlying theme start to converge in blog posts and LinkedIn. Most recently I’ve seen an influx of encouragement that you should use your bookkeeper to do analysis for you, to help you manage cash etc and improve your workflow.
I think these people are making a big, big mistake.
There is an oversimplification of what it takes to manage a growing firm’s accounting, and it goes beyond just pretty books and beautifully balanced bank recs. (And yes, us accounting-types refer to balanced bank recs as “beautiful.”)
For a small company (under $200K in revenue) maybe having someone pay your bills and get your invoices out the door is enough. But even at this level I feel there is more that these companies need. I believe if they are small they still need to understand their numbers, they need to have a handle on cash flow and they need to know what products or customers are making them the most money.
It’s time to get real.
Most bookkeepers provide the basics. Maybe they were payroll clerks that grew into accounting roles, maybe they are self-taught spouses who manage the books. Maybe they were in-house bookkeepers who decided to freelance.
Many know the accounting software but not the underlying accounting– and that’s a big big problem.
In addition to inadvertently covering up errors, they may not understand the impact of what they are booking in the software and its impact on the financial statements, yielding misinformation and inaccurate view of a company’s financial position.
They also may be able to streamline your workflow, but be wary of those that can “implement” systems. Many times they don’t understand the design work and the planning that goes into a successful implementation.
Many have the ability to generate good numbers but they don’t know what to DO with the numbers once they close the books. Time and time again we hear the disappointment of business owners who want MORE from their bookkeepers, but they don’t realize they may not have the skill set or capacity to give them the information, the analysis and the answers they are looking for.
Bookkeepers aren’t Controllers, they aren’t “cheap” CFOs and sometimes they aren’t even bookkeepers– they may be just clerks.
It might be time to adjust your expectations and realize to get where you need to go you may need to make an investment in your accounting staff or bring in additional resources.
Maybe that’s a part-time Controller or CFO or maybe you need a Senior Accounting Manager. Or maybe you both in small increments through outsourcing. In any case, assess your accounting function objectively and don’t short-change yourself by being short-sighted. Make an investment. The return is going to be more than you expected.