I was watching a few innings of a baseball game the other day.  I was taken back to a time when I tried to explain the game to one of my kids.  My daughter had played one season of soccer.  In that game, everybody’s job was to kick the ball in the goal.  Pretty simple, at least as her eyes saw it.   What puzzled her about baseball were all the different positions.  Why did only one guy get to throw the ball?  How come that guy had to wear a mask and bend his knees?  Why didn’t everyone get to use a bat? I explained that everyone was on the same team, but they all had different jobs and responsibilities.  One guy was really fast, and his job was to chase down the fly balls.  Another guy could throw really fast and on target, so he was called the pitcher.

I think it’s much the same in accounting.  Many clients often assume that we handle everything under the sun when it comes to numbers.  Paying bills, tax preparation, preparing budgets, you name it… the accountant does it.  When they discover, for instance, that our firm doesn’t prepare tax returns, they wonder how we spend all our time.  Isn’t that part of the job?  Well, some guys play outfield, some guys play short stop, you get the picture.

In many small and medium sized companies, one person is playing multiple positions simultaneously.  This can cause work overload.  It sometimes also causes a talent mismatch.  Not all numbers guys are good at every accounting skill.   So if you’re going to assemble a World Series caliber accounting team, it’s important to understand the different positions and areas of expertise.  To help you fill out your lineup card, here’s my list of the position players you will find on your accounting team.

  • Bookkeeper – Performs the operational transactions.  For example pays bills, make deposits, payroll.  Verifies the accuracy of information.  Reconciles, ties out, audits.  The record keeper.  Provides the trail of bread crumbs to source documents.   May be separated by function. For example billing clerk, payables clerk, purchasing.
  • CPA – This is what most people think of as their guy.  Manages your relationship with Uncle Sam.  Handles tax preparation, tax compliance, tax strategy, and tax planning. Frequently provides  independent and objective  financial statements to banks and investors.
  • Controller – Manages the bookkeeping. Quality control of your financial information. Reconciles cash and credit cards. Interacts with clients. Can think about systems above people. Is often your QuickBooks guru.
  • CFO – Mr. Numbers wears many hats
    • Numbers guy – presents and reports the data. For example, cash flow, billings, inventory turns.
    • Interprets the data – trends, patterns, graphs
    • Also explains, makes simple, uses metaphor, provides clarity
    • Stat geek – GPM, ROI, EBIDTA.
    • The budget guy – prepares and monitors the budget
    • Treasury management – raises equity, supervises debt
  • Trusted advisors, your guys
    • Your banker
    • Your insurance guy
    • Your retirement guy

A strong accounting team is critical to the success of every business, no matter the size or age of the company. Understanding the various roles and responsibilities of each team member can help you match talents with work requirements.  Draft the right people for the right job and your chances of success improve greatly.

Wishing you lots of positive cash flow.

Walter Miller