Blair Welchel launched her heirloom grain and pasta business in 2015, and moved into a retail location in 2016. Like most start-ups, the to-do list is longer than hours in a day. From the basic operations of milling grains and rolling pasta, to making sales calls, managing the store, inventory and developing her brand… Blair’s days are full. And like most start-ups, cash is tight, so she needs to be careful about how much of her to-do list she delegates – she needs to manage her resources (and cash!) carefully.
Thankfully, business has grown at a steady clip; no doubt a combination of a superior product and good branding. She received great recognition in Saveur Magazine and the New York Times. Her to-do list hasn’t changed per-se, but everything takes longer… more sales calls to make, more pasta to roll, more sales and invoices to enter into her bookkeeping system.
She posted on Facebook that she’s looking to hire a bookkeeper. I applaud Blair for this move. She recognized the value of good record-keeping to make effective business decisions, like:
- How quickly is she selling different spices, and how much should she order when?
- What does it cost to produce each spice mix and how much should she charge?
- When are the slow periods in the business and how should she manage cash flow to get her through?
And she also recognized that she just didn’t have the time to do it effectively. So she made a list of all the areas where she could use help, and posted a job with the following responsibilities:
- Use QuickBooks to maintain financial records including data entry, reconciling accounts, and financial reporting
- Process A/P and A/R
- Project and help to manage cash flow
- Track inventory and assist in forecasting to determine time and amount of inventory to purchase and produce
- Communicate with sources around the region
- Process payroll
- File and pay necessary local, state and federal taxes and other reporting requirements on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis
- Work with an accountant to file corporate income taxes
- Provide administrative support as necessary
- Provide business insights by analyzing trends and creating financial reports on a weekly and monthly basis
- Build systems to make running the business more efficient
It’s quite a list. The first thing that struck me was the variety of tasks. Some are definitely bookkeeping tasks, some are more suited for an accountant and others for a store manager. It’s not easy to find one person with all of these skills, especially in a tight labor market. Nonetheless, as a small business owner, Blair can’t afford to hire 3 separate people, so to get all these tasks done, she will need to rejigger how she thinks about it. My suggestion – hire an accounting firm for the bookkeeping and financial management tasks; and a store manager for the others.
Bookkeepers and accountants are terms that are often used interchangeably though are very different. A bookkeeper does more data entry: enters receipts into the bookkeeping system, writes checks and records deposits. An accountant provides more management support: files taxes and helps with budgeting and cash flow projections. It’s possible to find a single person to do both kinds of tasks, but is not necessarily the most cost effective. An accountant can charge anywhere from $80 – $250 an hour, whereas a bookkeeper will charge $25 – $50. A bookkeeping and accounting firm (like Bistro Accounting or Spark Business Consulting) has a team of bookkeepers and accountants who can handle the variety of tasks and assign the right job to the right person. In fact, it can be the most cost effective option as they have the efficiencies that hiring a person in house doesn’t have.
For the tasks that an accounting firm shouldn’t handle, Blair can hire extra help in the store.
It’s okay to ask for help and delegate the responsibilities for which you don’t have time. Just be clear about the type of person you need. You’ll have a much easier time filling the role.
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