A recent studies show that the dearth of qualified employees is reaching alarming proportions. Take this study from Manpower, which found that for the third year in a row, “Accounting and Finance” were cited by respondents as the “hardest jobs to fill.” Now these reasons probably won’t come as much of a surprise to you.The main problem is one of perception that can lead to tangible negative outcomes. And here’s what we mean by that. Too often business executives think of the accounting and finance skill-sets through a very narrow lens. For some accountants just fill out tax forms and financial staff simply “runs the numbers.” On paper, it all seems very cut and dry and simple enough. But reality, as always, is a bit more complicated. The fact is that accountants and financial staff are being asked to do far more than mere checking off boxes. They’re being tasked with financial planning, data analysis, auditing, and internal controls roles. These roles ultimately require staff to possess a degree of business knowledge and other “soft skills” that, unfortunately, are difficult to teach in college (if they’re taught at all).
These soft skills include negotiation, business communications, and articulating trade-offs when considering financial decisions. And in most cases, such skills can only be developed on-the-job through mentoring, volunteering, apprenticeships and yes, ongoing education. As you can imagine, building these skills in-house can be an arduous task. First, it costs time and money. Secondly, there’s no guarantee your staff will stick around; should they leave your business after 12 months, all of that effort and education is essentially wasted – another powerful testament to the value of outsourced accounting services.
For many small businesses, deciding on hiring an outsourced accounting services provider is the easy part. Outsourcing accounting and bookkeeping needs can save up to 40% of the cost of hiring in-house bookkeepers, while benefiting from a diverse group of professionals who help with CFO functions, tax advisory and financial planning. However, the hard part is actually choosing the proper vendor.
So what, specifically, should you look for in outsourced providers? Well, naturally, you’ll want to make sure vendors possess these important soft skills. Ask them examples of when they made an important strategic financial decision. Have them describe how they approached it, how they managed the demands of different executives, each of whom had their own agenda. Ask them to simply articulate arcane accounting and financial concepts in a way that a business person can understand. And make sure they view your accounting and financial challenges within the totality of your business as a whole: how their services help drive growth, save money, and boost efficiency
Here are three things you should look for in your outsourced accounting providers:
Collaboration: Having access to a team of professional accountants to ensure that your business’s financial health is critical when considering outsourcing your accounting. Make sure you ask about the team and get to know the key players who you would be working with.
Fraud Protection: Proper accounting controls and external audits are responsible for 26% of the cases in the study for detecting or preventing fraud according to a study from Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). See if your outsourced accounting provider uses proper mechanisms for monitoring KPIs and fraud indicators to better protect you from unforseen losses.
Cloud Accounting: Cloud accounting software helps in reducing overhead and makes sure that your accounting data can be managed easily and provides you with scalable options as your business grows. Ask your provider what accounting software do they support and how cusomizable those options might be to suit your business.
It’s a tall order, but your business’s financial stability demands nothing less.