How should I track these metrics?
Though it’s quite common for small business owners to have a spouse or family friend “do the books,” effectively managing your small business’s finances goes beyond bookkeeping. Properly strategizing for your company’s future, as well as meeting your legal requirements, is best achieved with professional accounting methods. This is particularly true if you’re too busy or too uninterested in the nitty-gritty details to analyze the numbers. At this stage, successful small businesses consider either outsourcing their accounting needs or investing in accounting software. Each option has its pros and cons.
For many startup companies, funds are tight and it may be tempting to pursue the cheapest method. Because your legal requirements are only due once per year, you may choose to ignore it all until tax time every spring. Remember, if you choose this option, you’re essentially opting out of receiving crucial data that can encourage success. The short-term solution may not be the best one, and it pays to do your due diligence when making this critical decision.
Hiring an Accountant
In some cases, small business owners may be more comfortable hiring a sole practitioner or accounting services firm, perhaps one that specializes in small businesses. Other businesses may hire temporary accounting staff at certain times during the year, or hire part-time bookkeeping staff with advanced training. In each of these cases, business owners transfer the company’s financial management to another individual. For a business owner who lacks accounting skills or detests crunching numbers, outsourcing the company’s financials can be an attractive choice.
Many business owners find an accountant’s expertise and tax knowledge to be the biggest draw towards outsourcing. A qualified accountant can assist in numerous ways outside of managing day-to-day finances. For example:
- Advising on how best to structure a company before it’s formed
- Consulting on the financial details of your business plan
- Identifying potential cost savings in operations
- Managing payroll
- Developing a financial safety net in case of catastrophic events or struggling growth
- Liaising with the IRS in the event of an audit
Though many small businesses start out with the owner as the sole employee, there comes a point during their growth when it’s wisest to hand over accounting functions to a professional. In this situation, businesses may choose to hire an inside accountant or an outside accountant in an accounting firm. For younger, growing businesses, using an accounting firm offers some flexibility. Keeping a firm on retainer for consultation can be particularly useful for the business that only needs their expertise a few times per year, for example. This is a cheaper option that still delivers high-level knowledge. Accounting firms generally charge by the hour, though some analytic functions will be priced higher than others. If you’re unsure, weigh the cost against what such a firm can save your company over time.