Accountants and bookkeepers share many of the same responsibilities in a startup environment, but their positions are not the same. Accountants collect, record, and analyze a business’ financial data while also ensuring that the future presentation of that same data is as accurate as possible. They have more distance from your startup, compared to bookkeepers, even though some may track employee timesheets for accuracy or be in frequent communication with leadership and key stakeholders.
If you’re preparing to hire an accountant to help with a growing startup, take some of the following responsibilities into account. You’ll need to outline your expectations for your new employee clearly before familiarizing them with the ins and outs of your business.
Need a bookkeeper instead of an accountant? Check out our piece on Bookkeeper Responsibilities at Startups!
Managing Financial Data
Accountants primarily collect, record, and maintain a business’ financial records. In collecting this data, they collaborate with bookkeepers to track revenue, outgoing invoices, and exchanges. Startup accountants also work to ensure that business records comply with financial legislation and the procedures that dictate data presentation. While presentation and protection will vary based on the size of your startup – small businesses, for example, are expected to preserve their data differently than corporations – legality is always on an adept accountant’s mind.
In addition to being well-versed in financial legalities, accountants managing a startup’s financial data may have to:
- Develop a financial database
- Implement store-wide database use
- Maintain and update the aforementioned database as technology and encryption evolves
- Establish and/or maintain small business control procedures
Updating Financial Data
While accountants aren’t expected to implement daily updates to your company’s financial databases, they are expected to stay on top of any changes that their affiliated business might undergo. This is where management and the updating of financial data come into play. Accountants, while collaborating with bookkeepers, should frequently reflect on their financial databases to ensure that the data therein is regular and reflects those findings reported by the bookkeeper affiliate.
This system of checks and balances ensures that, if one party has missed a financial development, the other can make them aware of it, and the business’ database can remain as accurate as possible.
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Analysis & Advice
Bookkeepers and accountants truly break in terms of data analysis. While bookkeepers can take time out of their day to assess financial trends, accountants are supposed to have the education and tools available to them to make assessments much simpler.
There are also different kinds of analysis for accountants to perform. A savvy accountant will help startups decide:
- Quantities and qualities of supplies to order
- Payments of bills to payroll
- Acceptable outreach and business partnerships (from a financial standard)
- Marketing budgets
Analysis on the part of an accountant will also help business owners and key stakeholders detect any instance of fraud that may arise within your growing startup. Access to this raw data, partnered with the time and ability to assess it for irregularities, makes accountants a security asset as much as a financial one.
Report Preparation & Compliance
Startups should expect their bookkeepers and accountants to provide them with financial reports, even though the reports will differ with the positions. An accountant should present their manager with quarterly and annual reports wherein the raw data collected by the bookkeeper has been assessed for the aforementioned irregularities.
These reports should also be turned in according to financial reporting deadlines, and they should meet the requirements placed upon them by the appropriate financial legislation. Taxes, for example – a duty which can be designated either to an accountant or a bookkeeper, depending on the size and scope of the business – need to meet legal standards, or else the affiliated accountant risks a business audit.
Make sure to share our Startup Tax Guide with your accountant to make sure your business is taking advantage of all the deductions it should be!
Reviewing Employee Timesheets
When compared to the aforementioned compliance with governmental and taxable legalities, monitoring employee timesheets should seem like a low-stress accounting responsibility. In fact, this responsibility is equally as essential as double-checking tax forms. Startup accountants should, ideally, check employee timesheets a day or two before the work week comes to an end to ensure that all employees have submitted their appropriate reports.
Likewise, when applicable, accountants are responsible for compensating a business’ employees for overtime. It does not matter whether that overtime was approved or not; businesses must compensate their employees for their time in the office. An attentive accountant, however, can step in before an employee’s hours exceed a standard limit and ensure that your startup maintains its bottom line.
Establishing & Maintaining Payroll
Last but not least, it’s a startup accountant, not a startup bookkeeper, who needs to establish payroll for your employees. While a small startup may only require one or two additional staff members, your accountant should still collect and process their financial data through encrypted software to ensure that their pay comes on time and through safe avenues.
Accountants can also plan ahead for potential promotions, business growth, or an overall increase in employee salary.
While crossover exists between the responsibilities of a bookkeeper and an accountant, accountants have a more distant – but no less influential – impact on the functionality of a growing startup. If you make sure your accountant is well-versed in their responsibilities when you onboard them, you’ll find that your day-to-day operations will run like clockwork!