What Accountant Does My Business Need?
Whether you are a startup founder in the early phase of brand-building, a second-gen business owner scaling up the family company, or a seasoned CEO, maintaining precise and accurate financial records is crucial to your success.
If your company is still in the early stages, or you are building a one-of-a-kind brand, you may be asking yourself, “What accountant does my business need?”
Since you have so many options for accounting professionals, our experts will break down a few common choices for business owners looking to streamline their financial operations. We will discuss five accounting positions, the three different employee types (full-time, part-time, and fractional), and the remote/in-person debate to help you choose the best financial professional for your growing brand.
Five Accounting Positions
“Accountant” is a vague term describing a few different jobs—so we explore five potential positions here that you could utilize in the pursuit of perfect books.
#1 Financial Clerks
Financial clerks—sometimes called accounting or administrative assistants—are entry-level clerical staff who can perform a variety of basic financial tasks, including:
- Data entry
- Invoice receipt and entry into an accounting system
- Check-printing and other basic accounts payable (AP) tasks
- Deposit recording and entry-level accounts receivable (AR) duties
- Timesheet processing, check stub distribution, or simple payroll responsibilities
If you already have another, more experienced staff member handling higher-level financial tasks—or if you still handle these yourself—and need someone to handle simpler tasks, a financial clerk could be a useful finance team member.
A bookkeeper’s primary responsibility is to record all of your business transactions, including:
- AP and purchases
- Utility payments
- Rent and mortgage payments
- Equipment and supply purchases
- Advertising and marketing expenses
- Credit card and EFT transactions
- Investments or capital contributions
- Disbursements to shareholders
Bookkeepers are significantly more experienced than financial clerks, but you should understand their limitations. In many cases, bookkeepers are still gathering additional accounting experience in pursuit of more impressive credentials (like a CPA license or appointment to CFO). Therefore, it is wise to align your bookkeeper’s skill set and professional development goals with your business’ needs.
If you are looking for a seasoned, jack-of-all-trades finance professional, look no further than the controller. Controllers can tackle bookkeeping responsibilities, but they can also spearhead more specialized financial projects, like:
- Financial strategy-building or forecasting
- Oversight or monitoring of other accounting staff
- Financial analysis and statement preparation
- Leadership and communication with stakeholders
Controllers are typically high-ranking employees in a company’s org chart—they have the expertise to consult on advanced financial matters, make important investment or cash-planning decisions, and keep your business in the black.
For small companies who need one strong financial expert to handle everything—from basic bookkeeping to advanced analyses—a controller is an excellent choice.
Certified Public Accountants—CPAs—are licensed professionals that offer a variety of services, including:
- Tax return preparation, filing, and payment
- Financial statement preparation and auditing
- Financial planning
- Advisory and regulatory consultation
If you’ve owned businesses in the past, you may be familiar with the CPA role already—many business owners primarily consult CPAs during tax season.
While a CPA can be a valuable financial team member for businesses scaling rapidly, remember that they are not bookkeepers or controllers. Instead, they primarily provide high-level, publicly-regulated services that require intensive knowledge and expertise.
If you are navigating a merger or acquisition, exponential profit, or changing financial regulations, a CPA can help you stay in compliance and meet your goals.
A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is the highest-ranking financial staff member in a company’s structure. If you run a small business or your company does not employ any chief executives, then you likely fill the CFO role, performing duties like:
- High-level financial planning and decision-making
- Financial team oversight
- Statement, report, and forecast reviews
- Communications with investors
- Networking with other executives and business owners
CFOs are highly experienced and, almost certainly, will have worked in at least one of the other positions listed above. But, like CPAs, they usually do not perform the everyday accounting duties that a controller or bookkeeper would.
Full-Time, Part-Time, or Fractional Accountants?
Before posting your job ad, consider how often you need your new accountant. You have three employee types to choose from:
- Full-time – Work in-house, on-site, remotely, or are outsourced and perform duties for at least 30 hours per week
- Part-time – The same responsibilities as a full-time hire, except they typically work for 20 hours or less per week
- Fractional – Usually work remotely as outsourced employees on a part-time or as-needed (e.g., seasonal, per-project) basis
While you are likely familiar with the first two options, the role of the fractional accountant often requires a more thorough explanation.
Fractional accountants can fill any of the five financial roles above, but they are not employed by your business. Instead, they typically work for a financial services provider or as freelancers, so you will pay them hourly instead of offering a salary and benefits.
They predominantly work remotely, , likely servicing a portfolio of clients and not just your business. But, they can be a cost-effective, convenient solution for business owners who do not have the accounting workload to hire a full-time worker or the cash flow to commit to new staff.
Remote or In-Person?
Many financial professionals can work remotely, so you should consider whether your ideal accountant will work in-house or from the comfort of their home.
While hiring remote staff for such a crucial role might sound odd, the advent of digital accounting technologies, remote meeting solutions, and paperless transactions renders financial duties relatively easy to complete off-site.
Which Option Should I Choose?
Ultimately, the choice is yours—every business is unique, and so is its financial staffing structure.
If you are unsure which accountant role is right for your business, consider starting with a fractional professional.
- Their duties and time commitment can scale with your business.
- You do not have to commit to a full- or part-time employee.
- They are cost-effective—you can save on overhead while exploring your staffing options.
And, you can hire fractional accountants temporarily—if, after a year, you decide that you would benefit from a full-time, in-house financial pro, you can pursue that avenue instead.
CFO Hub: Streamlining Accounting and Financial Services
“What accountant does my business need?”
The answer is different for every business, every sector, and at every growth stage.
If you’re looking for expert advice on accounting staffing—or you’re interested in starting with fractional or outsourced financial services—CFO Hub is your financial services provider of choice.
CFO Hub is the solution to your growing business’s mounting financial workload. Let us manage your finances while you focus on what you love—developing your burgeoning brand.