To some founders, hiring an accountant can seem as daunting as accounting itself, a mysterious code or awkward translation of the actual orders shipped and raw materials purchased. But Jen Nord, an accountant with Rudd & Company, says the numbers can reveal how our business is doing in near-real-time and provide valuable insight to decision making. She offers these tips on how (and whether) to hire an accountant or bookkeeper.LEARN MORE ABOUT JEN NORD
When to Hire
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by paperwork, wondering if you can use resources more efficiently, or simply unsure where you are in achieving your goals, these are cues you may want hire an accountant. While bookkeepers enter business data in accounting formats, accountants have the training to analyze and interpret the numbers, so you can read a coherent story of what’s unfolding. Interpreting the numbers can help you decide how much inventory to hold, or anticipate whether purchasing a building is a good use of capital. But, Jen cautions that hiring an accountant may not be a good use of scarce resources if you are comfortable learning the financial language to express your business activities. And there is little reason to bring on an accountant or bookkeeper as an employee when excellent expertise is available on a contract basis, whether a few hours a week or a few hours a month.
What to Ask
A good accountant will readily provide references of current and former clients. Knowing they’re entrusted with confidential aspects of businesses, accountants are accustomed to having multiple ways to verify information, including information about themselves. Jen encourages founders to ask about specific accounting software with which candidates have the most experience, as well as about work logistics—where the person intends to work, what resources will be needed, and what flexibility might be valued. Another important part of managing expectations comes from discussing how much of the founder’s time the accountant believes she will need, and how much time and explanation the founder wants, along with preferred modes of communicating.
How to Make Sure What You See is What You Get
Jen advocates reviewing candidates’ profiles on social media to view how they represent themselves. If they’re going to be intimately familiar with your business, you want to make sure you see to whom you’re entrusting your livelihood. She suggests that a business owner never turn over all banking and transaction resources to another person. You can design processes, for example, for posting refunds and payments to customer accounts, so that no single person does both, or so that you review all transactions posted by another. Banks can provide read-only access for accounts to people providing services to your firm to help maintain a separation of duties. Even if you like and trust your accounting service-provider, you can protect her or him from professional vulnerability with measures such as these.
The numbers associated with your ongoing business activities tell a story. If you aren’t yet confident in reading the drama for yourself, you’ll want to learn. Meanwhile, Jen’s suggestions can help you find a trustworthy ally for interpreting the action.