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To build and sustain a solid foundation in business, every owner needs advisors. The “big three” often mentioned are accountant, banker and attorney. Most business owners are familiar with the titles and financial services provided by bookkeepers and accountants; however, owners should know more about the various roles of financial professionals – and their specialized expertise – as they manage and grow their business.

Key Takeaways

  • The complexity of your business can help determine the type of financial professionals you need
  • If surrounded by the appropriate advisory team, business owners can concentrate on what they do best
  • Find and utilize financial professionals to structure your business correctly and prepare for a capital funding request

Advisors Who Help Your Business Thrive

To call the last few years in business “challenging” may be considered an enormous understatement by most business owners. Navigating businesses through lockdowns, eCommerce transformations, employee shortages and burnout, COVID safety protocols and supply shortages, owners have faced one hurdle after another during the past 18 months.

According to Stephanie Battle, VP, Business Banking Team Lead, KeyBank, “Currently many businesses are facing some of the most challenging supply chain issues of our time. After talking to hundreds of business owners and leaders, it’s clear that those surrounded by a trusted advisory team are coming through these challenges stronger than those who are going through them alone.

“Currently we are having many conversations about how supply chain issues affect cash flow – we are proactively working with owners and their financial services team members to map out the next few months and even the next year.”

Battle works with the entire spectrum of financial professionals, along with business owners. She says that two factors usually determine what type of specialists a business owner needs – and often, it’s more than one. “Complexity of your business and the strength of your leadership team are both important considerations when deciding on hiring, either part time or full time, financial professionals to set up, run and help grow your business.”

Battle commented that most business owners have a passion or a talent that drove them to establish a business in the first place. “Often, our advice for owners is for them to focus on their business as a whole and hire trusted professionals to dive deep into the financial aspects of the company. As a business grows, or has the opportunity to grow, the level of financial expertise needed may change along the way.

“As part of an advisory team, we work with owners to understand their vision for the business. Often, we can help determine when additional counsel is needed,” said Battle. “We routinely work with many levels of financial specialists to get the best picture of how the business is actually performing and how the advisory team can best guide it to ongoing success.”

Roles and Responsibilities of Finance Specialists

Business owners should be familiar with the different main types of financial professionals and what they typically do for a business.

Bookkeeper

A bookkeeper keeps track of accounts payable, accounts receivable and inventory – in other words, they “keep the books” for a company. They may use QuickBooks to record transactions accurately, and in small businesses they may also process payroll. Depending on the amount of transactions a company does per month, a bookkeeper may be needed full or part time.

A bookkeeper may file and pay taxes for a business but typically does not give tax advice or communicate on the company’s behalf with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Accountant

Accountants prepare detailed financial statements, perform audits and may prepare reports for tax purposes. Accountants also project accounting data to show the effects of proposed plans on capital investments, income, cash position and overall financial position. They analyze financial information detailing assets, liabilities and capital, and prepare balance sheets, profit and loss statements and other reports to summarize an organization’s current and projected financial position.

However, it is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or tax attorney who normally represents a taxpayer with the IRS and other matters. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the national professional association for CPAs.

Controller

A controller typically leads accounting operations, including the production of periodic financial reports, maintenance of the records system, and a comprehensive set of controls and budgets to mitigate risk and enhance the accuracy and compliance of financial reports. They apply accounting expertise to ensure business financials are GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) compliant, which is the standard adopted by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

Chief Financial Officer

A CFO works with you and your management team to create a financial road map for fiscal responsibility, and builds metrics and reporting systems that provide performance feedback. Primary responsibilities of a CFO include:

  • Helps to ensure the company is adequately capitalized
  • Performs financial planning and analysis, especially forecasting
  • Interfaces with business management, the board of directors, investors and bankers
  • Works with a controller to install processes and systems for rapid growth

“At KeyBank, we work with all levels of financial professionals – from bookkeepers who typically interact at the branch level, to CPAs, controllers and CFOs,” said Battle. “Key assigns a Relationship Manager to the businesses we work with. We want to be involved and meet with advisory teams and owners as often as needed to do our best for that owner and their business.”

Finding the Financial Advisors You Need

One way to find the financial professionals you need is to ask your KeyBank contact. But what if you need a CPA two days a month and CFO advice two to three times a year?

According to Missy Dejene, Senior Tax Manager, Brixey & Meyer, help is out there. Companies like Brixey & Meyer of Ohio provide support ranging from tax consulting and accounting to business advisory and strategy services – even CFO services – to help any size business thrive and grow.

“Entrepreneurs often need help setting up their business correctly in order to correctly build processes around the need for compliance right away,” Dejene said. “That way an owner doesn’t face tax or other compliance issues later on.”

Does this require the thinking of a CPA, Controller or CFO? “Most likely it does,” she said. “That is why firms like Brixey & Meyer exist. Our advisors work seamlessly with other business advisors – a banker, attorney, etc. – to come up with solutions for the business owner, even if our advisors are only needed a few hours a month or a couple of times per year.”

According to Dejene, advisors from Brixey & Meyer also work with owners to prepare documents necessary for an owner to raise capital for her business. “We work with bankers and business owners ahead of time in order to help prepare the proper documents well before a business needs capital. We want to work with a business's entire advisory team so that the banker has the information required to consider a request for capital funding. It’s important for owners to do this early, even six months to a year before funding is absolutely necessary.”

Let’s work together to achieve your goals.

For more Key4Women® resources to help you reach your goals, visit key.com/women, or email us to learn more.

The information contained herein has been obtained from sources deemed to be reliable, but it is not represented to be accurate, complete or objective. Viewpoints in the list of resources do not necessarily reflect those of KeyCorp.

Key.com is a federally registered service mark of KeyCorp.

Key4Women is a registered trademark of KeyCorp.

KeyBank is Member FDIC.

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