As the owner and director of a small accounting business, I think that there is definitely a way in which bookkeepers, accountants and business owners can support one another while working together at an organization. While an individual can be both an accountant and a bookkeeper, I do believe that there is a distinction between the role each one plays in an organization.
The Bookkeeper’s Role in a Small Business
I view the bookkeeper as the operational finance person within a small business. They deal with the day-to-day accounting tasks of the business, such as recording deposits, creating invoices, inputting expenses, and reconciling the business bank and credit card accounts. The bookkeeper is also often the one that performs the payroll and GST/HST/PST functions in the business. This is why, in many small businesses, the business owner is the one that will take on the bookkeeping role for their company.
The Accountant’s Role in a Small Business
An accountant within a small business will often be the strategic finance person and also the individual that assists with the annual tax filings and preparation of the financial statements. More often than not, the accountant would take the information provided directly by the bookkeeper to create these documents. The majority of accountants that I know are designated accountants, whether they are legacy CAs, CMAs or CGAs, we are all now under the Chartered Professional Accountant designation. There are other accounting designations as well, but these people would have received their designations outside of Canada. The accountant will also be the one to assist in preparing financial forecasts, tax planning and annual budgets.
In a nutshell, the accountant role within a small business is more of an advisor on the finances of the company and the bookkeeper is the one that would have a much more intimate knowledge of the day-to-day operations of the company. Ideally, the accountant and the bookkeeper will work well with one another and communicate regularly. This will make the financial side of the business run smoothly.
Small Business Tip: Why You Should Consider Outsourcing Your Bookkeeping
One of my first recommendations to other small business owners is to consider outsourcing the bookkeeping role. I find that the bookkeeping side of the business is one of the least desirable tasks for a business owner. Yes, hiring a bookkeeper will cost you money, but if it is a task that you despise and you procrastinate until the last possible moment, you are likely making errors in your bookkeeping. You are also taking away from the time that you could be spending bringing in revenues or just enjoying life outside of the business.
Bookkeepers and accountants, for the most part, love numbers and love making sense of what is happening in the company. I know that many business owners don’t understand that, but from an accountant’s point of view, I could never see myself being creative enough to come up with the ideas of many of the businesses that I support. Or taking such a risk to make a business successful. Leave the numbers to the people that love working with them! This will allow you to concentrate more on making your business more successful.
Now, this doesn’t mean that once you hire a bookkeeper and an accountant that you can just ignore the numbers or the financial results. You need to analyze and question the numbers. Understand how your marketing efforts or hiring that additional staff member has impacted your bottom line. And then use this information to make changes to support what you want the business to become.
Dayna Holland, CPA, CA
CEO of Dayna Holland Ltd.
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