Who Can I Go To For Financial Advice?

Financial colleagues working at table in office
Can bookkeepers or accountants also be financial planners or financial advisors? Learn when you need which, and if one person can do it all.

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How Many Professionals Do I Need for My Business, Really?

Bookkeepers, Accountants, Financial Planners, Financial Advisors – do I really need to have these four different professionals to run my company? Or if I had to choose one, which one would I need? The answer to this may be in understanding the differences between these, what they have in common, the stage your business is at, and what you need today.

Bookkeeper

Their main role is the accounting of records, including recording transactions, both receivable and payable, but they may also have daily/weekly tasks like payroll and other accounting functions. Though they aren’t accountants, bookkeepers can generally do many accounting functions and may be very qualified to do so. Their experience might also lend them a hand with financial planning and advising.

Accountant

An accountants’ main role is to prepare and review financial documents like the P & L. They are also able to do tax preparing and filing, auditing the work of bookkeepers, and understand the financial health of a company to help ensure it runs financially well. They occasionally do functions a bookkeeper usually takes care of (though at a higher rate) and may be able to advise on financial planning, depending on their experience.

Financial Planners and Advisors

The key to what they do is in their title – planning and/or advising. They offer financial planning or investment strategies, both long and short term, with your goals in mind and work with their clients on developing strategies at the risk level the client is wishing to take. They make recommendations and advise on what the current strategy is and work with their clients on the plan. A financial advisor is more focused on helping their clients manage their money while a financial planner is more focused on long term strategies and goals. Both titles may cross over, and some of these may be more specialized in things like retirement planning, business planning, tax consulting. These also come with their own certification. If you are just learning about or considering, think about what you are really looking for and get referrals from friends, family, or colleagues. You may also want to speak to a few of them before deciding on which one is best for you. They may offer some ideas you had not thought about yet.

So, Which Do I Need For My Business?

Since accounting is different than financial planning and advice, you may need multiple people for your success. You can’t do it all, and if you have been in business a while, you understand this. If you are looking for someone to get a specific job done, then you may want to learn about the different financial certifications. For example, a CFP is a Certified Financial Planner who must complete coursework and pass a test to qualify for the certificate.

Unless you want to do your own finances, you’ll need to hire a bookkeeper, who might also be able to perform accounting functions. As your company grows you could potentially outgrow the accounting knowledge of your bookkeeper and need to consult with an actual accountant. Most bookkeepers will let you know when they aren’t capable of getting something done and if you should seek advice from someone else with a different skill set. The same is true with financial planners/advisors – the person doing your bookkeeping/accounting may be able to provide some financial planning, but they also know when it is not their specialty. The larger your company becomes the more you will need to seek out advice and services of financial planners/advisors to help you with the short and long-term planning of your company.

If this is your first company, the advice of an accountant and/or financial planner is important in understanding your P & L, how to identify your KPIs, and how best to manage your money. Questions always come up like “how much money should I have in the bank as a safety net” or “how do I know if my COGs (cost of goods) or labor cost is higher than it should be?” If you am losing money, raising prices may seem like the easiest way to solve this. People often think that if they charge more they will be profitable, but this isn’t always the case. An accountant or financial advisor may have a specialty for this, or you may have to seek out a business coach in your industry who is more familiar with your industries’ KPIs. Think about all the scenarios that could happen:

  • Inefficiencies in processes (higher labor cost)
  • Inefficiencies in purchasing (paying more for products)
  • Waste of products (what is acceptable? How do you know this?)

This list could go on and on, but understanding industry norms will help in making better decisions, and an advisor can certainly come in handy.

Everything In Due Time

When a business is starting out, the initial team will probably wear many hats, but as the business grows, knowing there is only so much time in a day, it becomes apparent when you need to hire more people to take care of all the different aspects of your company. Having an organizational chart will help with both short term and long-term planning. Starting an organizational chart may seem like a monstrous task, but it is really just listing all the functions each person is handling and, estimating as growth happens, when additional staff may be needed and which jobs/roles may need to change in the future. This will also help with your staffing planning. For many local businesses there may not be a need at all for an in-house person to handle the accounting, nor a full time need to have a financial advisor/planner on staff, but having these experienced professionals ready to go to when needed may help you save quite a bit of time and money today and in the future.

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