CPA Firm or CFO | Which Do You Need?

If you are a small company you know that it is nearly impossible to have in house all the skills you will require. Probably, like most small business owners, you are concerned with keeping expenses under control, and as a result you have a staff that can handle the day-to-day functions. When it comes to financial matters, depending on the size and complexity of your business, you likely have a controller or bookkeeper and perhaps one to three others that handle specific areas such as accounts receivable or accounts payable.

When You Need More Financial Horsepower

Again, most small businesses as well as large ones have those times when they need skills that are lacking in-house or simply cannot be done by their own employees. This is where you need to think carefully about the best way to meet these needs. Though they are both in the medical field, you don’t go to a brain surgeon for a broken leg but rather an orthopedist. Just as there is a need for both of these medical specialties, the same holds true for your company’s accounting and finance needs. Examples of this include audits, reviews, and income tax strategy and preparation that are commonly left to an outside CPA firm. All this makes complete sense. But, there is an aspect of the financial arena where I believe that small companies in particular have an opportunity to strengthen themselves and at the same time save money.

CFO or Controller

CPA firms may offer Part-time CFO or Controller services, but they often prove to be rather expensive for this service. Though not always the case, it is something you should consider. If you are utilizing a CPA firm for this service, it is likely that three things are happening that increase the cost and/or impact the service:

  1. Generally a higher level person with the firm must keep tabs on what their employee is doing for your company
  2. The person doing the work often lacks understanding of what really happens on a daily basis in private industry
  3. The rate you are being charged may be higher than the value of the actual services rendered

There is an alternative that works well and generally comes at less cost and even offers some additional benefits. Don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with your CPA firm providing these services, but the nature of their relationship with your company often places limitations on what they can actually do.

Outside Part-time CFO or Controller

Many small businesses, unable to justify the cost of an in-house CFO or Controller, are better served by contracting this on a part-time basis with someone who specializes in providing Part-time CFO or Controller services. Some of the benefits of this arrangement include:

  1. Years of experience in private business
  2. A clear understanding of the things that go on daily
  3. Knowledge of critical issues they should handle
  4. Know which functions should be left to an in-house employee
  5. Working with more than one business provides exposure to new ideas
  6. Less likely to get caught up in the daily business politics
  7. Generally less expensive that utilizing a CPA firm

What is it You Really Need?

If you need a review, audit, tax advice and preparation, or similar highly specialized services, by all means contact a CPA firm. Really, I wouldn’t touch those areas. But, if you simply need someone who will handle some of the more complex finance and accounting issues of running a small business, consider using someone who specializes in this. At AimCFO the idea is to provide Part-time CFO or Controller services that work in concert with you, your staff and your outside CPA firm to make sure you get what you need. Maybe its time you thought seriously about what you really need.

If you want to know more, contact AimCFO – Contact

As always, your comments are welcomed.


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