Accurate and up-to-date financial information is a powerful tool for a growing business. With reliable information, business owners can make better strategic decisions, secure resources and increase profitability. But, how can business owners ensure they have this competitive advantage?
“If you want to get powerful financial information in your hands without slowing down your business to put it together, you might have to make a choice,” says Brenda Stelle, a manager of the business services department at Sensiba San Filippo, LLP. “Financial information can be empowering, but managing it can also be a burden on a growing business. Partnering with a CPA firm that specializes in providing business services can provide a spark for many organizations.”
Smart Business spoke with Stelle about tools and tips for business owners as they evaluate their current financial processes and how to determine if they could benefit from working with a business services department.
What are business services and how do they bring value to a growing business?
From pre-revenue startups to thriving companies, more and more businesses are turning to CPAs to provide the additional accounting services needed to transform their business. Having their financials and accounting processes evolve from a tedious and often-overlooked burden to a streamlined solution empowers owners to focus on the growth of their company.
Recognizing the need for accounting solutions for small and mid-sized businesses, some leading accounting firms have assembled business service teams that provide bookkeeping, financial reporting and tax planning services. These business service teams work with companies of all sizes. However, they are particularly useful for growing and startup businesses that need help but may not yet require an internal accounting department.
Business owners often must act as the bookkeeper, the account coordinator, the receptionist and more. But as the business expands, it needs greater expertise in all those areas. Working with a business service provider allows a company to acquire expert services without the risk and investment of a new hire.
Many business service teams also offer services such as project costing and accounting system design and implementation. Sometimes, startup companies just don’t know where to begin or how to properly prepare expense reports or get a loan to finance growth. Business service teams have answers, so owners don’t have to waste time searching for them.
How can business owners know when they should consider outside help?
If a business owner feels like they are making too many decisions without the information they need, or if they feel as if they have to chase down financial information when an opportunity or decision arises, it might be time to look for outside help. Similarly, if business owners are distracted from their core business practices, they run the risk of missing opportunities. In this way, partnering with a CPA that specializes in business services can provide much needed resources and help restore focus. They can help you as your business evolves in the short term, or serve as an outside party to help you see what’s really happening.
What should be expected from an accounting firm’s business service team?
Business service teams can help clients see that their future success depends on acting proactively. They also can work with owners to analyze the critical decisions that may help to avoid a crisis, manage an unforeseen financial problem or take advantage of an opportunity for growth.
Financial information should help business owners make better strategic decisions, recognize opportunities and avoid critical mistakes. With accurate, meaningful and timely information, a business owner can analyze key performance indicators with confidence.
Maybe the biggest thing a business service provider can offer is peace of mind. Business owners can feel overwhelmed on a daily basis just because they don’t have an accounting system in place that tells them, ‘Yes, we can pay our bills.’
How does a business choose the right business services partner?
Work with a business services partner that has experience in your industry and has the resources of a strong CPA firm. Also, be sure to get referrals and check references. Not all business service providers are the same. It’s a good idea to find out if an accounting firm has made these services a priority. Firms that have dedicated business service teams are often more focused on providing services that maximize the value they deliver. These dedicated teams allow for greater responsiveness and timely turnaround.
When choosing a business services partner, it is wise to take the time to communicate expectations to ensure that your new partner can handle your needs. Be clear about what you expect from the relationship, otherwise, you may find yourself with a provider but not a solution.
How can business owners ensure they are receiving value from the services provided?
A properly staffed business services team can work with clients of varying sizes, from startups to those with $20 million in revenue. Some will bundle services together so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Business owners should seek out a CPA firm that focuses on long-term relationships with its clients, and has high retention rates and client references you can speak with. Sit down with them and let them get to know you, your business and where you want to go. They will identify the critical functions that will provide the information needed to run a strategic business. From there, they will set up a plan of action and move forward.
Brenda Stelle is a manager of business services at Sensiba San Filippo, LLP, a regional CPA firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach her at (925) 271-8700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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