When hiring an accounting team, it’s important to first look at the business’s needs. What a company requires from an accounting perspective can vary from one business to another, especially depending on its size.
For example, small businesses may not have the available resources to hire a full-time accountant. They may need someone to only oversee the basic tasks, such as paying the bills or data entry. If this is the case, a part-time accountant or bookkeeper may be the solution.
Meanwhile, another organization may get more creative with their staffing solutions and make the accounting responsibilities 50 percent of a current employee’s workload. This is often seen with the Office Manager role, which can be tasked with spending half the day doing the company’s bookkeeping or other accounting tasks, while juggling their normal responsibilities.
Regardless of how the team looks from an outside perspective, it’s vital to staff an accounting department with the right people who possess the education and experience necessary to get the job done, while meeting the organization’s needs. Let Jason Alexander, a CFO Business Advisor for Lucrum Consulting, LLC, explain. Jason has four years of experience working with a national staffing company specializing in finance and accounting professionals so he’s seen just about every success story and mistake when it comes to hiring in this field.
Bookkeepers are traditionally the foundation of any accounting department. Don’t have a never-ending reserve of resources? A bookkeeper is a solid first hire. Most small-business bookkeepers are QuickBooks savvy and excel at data entry. They are also pros at overseeing the day-to-day accounting functions, such as maintaining invoices for accounts receivable, processing stop payments, writing checks and filing/storing documents.
“These are the individuals I like to affectionately say handle the ‘blocking and tackling’ for an organization,” explains Alexander. “Bookkeepers keep the organization in compliance, ensuring the bills are paid on time and the vendors are kept happy. They also have to be exceptionally trust-worthy. You don’t want just anyone handling the books on behalf of a company’s namesake. You want the best.”
Staff to Senior Accountant or Controller
As the company grows and it begins to need additional analysis and reporting to move forward, a more advanced senior accountant with strong industry and software experience should be on-boarded. In the accounting industry, this position is often referred to as a Staff or Senior Accountant – someone who is capable of performing and overseeing all of the bookkeeper responsibilities but who can also provide simple reports to management about the company’s last quarter financial performance. This person is typically a degreed accountant or has the experience required.
“These individuals are the historians,” says Alexander. “They excel at looking at an organization’s past performance and outlining its prior areas of growth and decline through the reports they generate. This information helps business owners make informed decisions so they can steer the business in the right direction.”
For business owners who are having a difficult time finding a qualified senior accountant, Alexander recommends looking internally first. Many times, there is a bookkeeper who can fill the position. If so, consider promoting them and using their knowledge and expertise to train the new, incoming bookkeeper who will be taking their place. “There are typically more affordable bookkeeper options, than accountants, in the marketplace,” adds Alexander. “So take advantage of it.”
The last full-time position to consider staffing is the CFO position, especially when the business is growing exponentially. In this instance, a visionary is needed – a forward thinker who can contribute to the strategic direction of the company. Often CFO’s are involved in management, operations, as well as the finance function. A good Staff Accountant or Controller is key to the CFO’s success; the CFO has to have good historical numbers to rely on so they can focus on forecasts or what-if scenarios using that prior period data.
“A CFO can add value to a team in a variety of ways,” says Alexander. “Where senior accountants are the historians, these individuals are the ‘thought leaders.’ They’re constantly looking ahead, evaluating the reward and weighing it against the risk. In short, their main goal is cash flow and ensuring the long-term financial health of the organization.”
How do they accomplish this? By spending their days focusing on the strategic direction of the business. CFOs handle budgeting, forecasting, job costing and analysis that includes a dashboard of Key Performance Indicators for the company.
“As a company grows, it requires more strategic thinking,” adds Alexander. “Adding a CFO to the staff is a sign an organization in moving in the right direction – up.”
To take the stress out of staffing an accounting team, heed Alexander’s advice. “Remember to always build from the ground up, remain flexible as the company grows and keep in mind that staffing decisions should be driven by what the company needs, not the business owner,” he says.
Are you ready to staff your accounting team or have questions about what roles may be needed based on your organization’s structure and size? Contact the Lucrum Consulting team at 980.999.2100 for assistance. We look forward to working with you.