Though many small businesses use the terms "accountant" and "bookkeeper" interchangeably, these professionals actually provide very different yet complementary services. Bookkeeping refers to the process of recording, storing, and retrieving financial transactions, while accounting refers to the systematic process of classifying, analyzing, summarizing, interpreting, and reporting financial data. Working in tandem, these positions can help lend great clarity to the business decision making process.
When you start a business, there are many actions you need to take and systems you need to set up to create the foundation for a successful business. The decision to use an accountant, bookkeeper, CPA, or do it yourself is determined by the size of your company, the complexity of your operations and financials, and the demands of your industry. While these services complement each other, only the largest companies with many daily and complicated financials are likely to need the regular services of a bookkeeper, controller, and a CPA.
If you're leveraging outsourced bookkeeping services to fill your bookkeeping and controllership needs, requirements for your accountant may be limited. A small business or a new business may simply not need the more advanced service accountants provide. Hiring an accountant when it is time to file taxes or generate end-of-the-year financial reports may be all the accounting help your business needs.
Ultimately you should choose the option that is most likely to yield accurate financial results, as these will help you to make informed business decisions and secure the long-term success of your company. Although you can choose to manage your finances on your own, hiring professionals for this job will allow you to focus more on managing and growing your business.