Martin Mellor ACMA,
Senior Finance Management Specialist,
Nottingham Trent University
When your business is first starting out, accounting tasks may initially be conducted by your core staff, with managers or even general office staff taking the reins of your day-to-day financial responsibilities. However, as your business grows and your accounts get more complicated, you’ll soon find that you need to employ skilled staff to deal with these matters – but where do you start?
I’ve put together a general guide for building an internal finance department, helping you to decide what roles you may need to advertise and fill in order to keep on top of the growing pressures of your financial management, and stay focused on what you set out to do – running the business.
Basic accounting roles
The first job that you may need to assign to a specific member of staff is bookkeeping. This role consists of the everyday recording of basic accounting data, such as raising sales invoices and recording purchase invoices and cash receipts/payments into your accounting software system, and keeping accurate, reconciled totals for monthly/quarterly and annual figures. They may also take care of petty cash, and the figures they collate can then be used for your VAT returns and to maintain an overview of your financial performance. Most good bookkeepers don’t cost the earth and they can be worth their weight in gold!
Perhaps one of the most important jobs in any business is to take care of accounts payable/accounts receivable – ensuring that you get money in from customers and that suppliers or contractors get paid on time.
Last but by no means least is payroll staff – a person or persons responsible for managing employee wages, and ensuring that their tax, pensions, National Insurance contributions, holiday pay and accrued overtime are all accounted for and included in their salary calculations. Payroll staff are also responsible for managing the actual payment of employee wages, but with payroll software this can probably done in addition to the tasks above – at least initially
Higher level accounting roles
Once you’ve got the basics covered off, you may find that you need to employ further skilled staff to manage other financial functions within your growing SME, such as:
1.Accounting manager – someone who oversees the core accounting staff (as above) and takes care of managing processes and establishing internal accounting and auditing policies and controls to avert fraud, protect the business and make sure you stay in line with statutory and compliance requirements.
2.Credit controller – this is a step up from the role of accounts payable/receivable, and involves making decisions regarding customer credit, managing creditor debts, checking credit ratings, arranging terms and conditions of credit contracts, negotiating payments of overdue debts and starting recovery proceedings where necessary.
3.Procurement/purchasing manager – while not a ‘pure’ finance function per se, a procurement specialist can help to support the finance team by identifying, comparing and liaising and negotiating with suppliers in order to secure goods or services at the best price, helping you manage your expenditures and budgets.
4.Treasury manager – not all businesses require a treasury manager, but they can be a real asset to the team if you need support with investment opportunities, banking relationships, maximising credit facilities and minimising costs and fees associated with financing.
5.Financial controller – once your business reaches a certain level of growth, it could pay to bring in a financial controller to join the team. They deal with immediate financial management issues, and also manage deeper-level accounting tasks, such as reporting and analysis, budgeting and project management, working with other senior personal to streamline your operations.
6.Finance Director perhaps the final piece of the jigsaw is to take on a full time FD (see below, outsourcing is a great stepping stone). The FD can become a valuable member of the management team helping to set the strategy and identify opportunities for growth, acquisitions and investments.
Outsourced services to support your accounts department
Depending on your current and changing requirements, you may, at some stage, need to bring in the services of financial manager or director who can pull together the information provided by the various roles outlined above for a more strategic level of support.