The Virtual Superhero
By Chris Sprague
Seizing the reins to run your own business can be both a powerful and daunting undertaking. One of the greatest pieces to put in place is finding the right people to provide a foundation that supports, builds, and carries the weight with you. From front-end administrative staff to your executive team, it may seem like you need many heads and multiple pairs of eyes to make sure that the team is rowing your boat in the correct direction and not towards the bottom of Fiasco Falls.
Keeping an eye on the finances (the literal ins-and-outs of money) is arguably one of the key areas that determine if, and how soon, the business succeeds or fails. There are many small to mid-sized business owners who attest that the never-ending tasks of cash flow management, taxes, transaction tracking, and government reporting requirements draw them away from their visionary role and the goal they started with.
It’s not a question of IF you’ll hire top talent to fill the role; it’s more a question of HOW that role is filled.
- Do you drop off your shoeboxes of combined personal receipts and business transaction records at the end of the year to your local tax preparation company to sort through?
- Do you pay to hire and retain a top in-house bookkeeper?
- Do you outsource to a reputable company who can become part of your virtual team?
Taking your transactions and receipts to a tax preparation company (the shoebox approach) is maintenance-free, but means you have no idea how your business is doing on an ongoing basis; you only find out at the end of the year, and even then you only know specific details - you won’t get a clear sense of what your money went towards, or even really where it came from. Besides, the hourly rate they charge for flattening and adding up zillions of receipts is intimidating!
Hiring top in-house talent costs money and time. There’s the obvious salary and vacation pay component, but you also need to consider the extra costs of overtime pay, CPP and EI employer contributions, workers’ compensation, a benefits package, plus background-check fees (which you’ll definitely want to do if this individual is what’s standing between you and financial success). You also need to consider whether you have enough work to keep an in-house worker busy, whether they’re part-time, or full-time. However, there are advantages to having your own in-house bookkeeper, especially if your financial needs are specialized or unusual. Having your own employee means they’re working on the tasks you set out at a time and proximity that fits your business. This individual gets to know the intimate details behind your business and can provide valuable, unbiased input that can cut costs, realise greater profit areas, and make things more efficient all around.
With all these advantages, why then are more businesses outsourcing their financial accounting? Here are just some of the answers. These virtual staff:
- are not employees of your company and therefore onboarding fees, salaries, vacation pay, CPP, EI, WSIB, turnover costs, etc. are not your responsibility;
- are used, and paid for, only when needed. No need to find other work to keep them busy or pay them overtime at year-end, for example;
- look at your business with a different perspective than an employee, and can catch mistakes or missed opportunities that are overlooked by an in-house employee who does the same task day after day;
- have a wealth of information about how businesses operate since their clients and tasks are varied, and they are constantly learning;
- act as advocates for you and provide a safe, non-threatening avenue to voice new ideas;
- provide a team approach (in the case of Flow Office Wisdom’s virtual bookkeepers) since we have a support group working in other companies who offer a tremendous knowledge base to pull from (this might not work if you’re dealing with a solo freelancer);
- have a back-up plan. If your bookkeeper falls ill, for example, another bookkeeper can step in to continue the work. Again, this may not be the case if you’re working with a solo freelancer;
- can train your new bookkeeper (and possibly be phased out slowly) if you decide it’s time to hire one full-time.
Growing the business is at the heart of every business owner’s goal. Scaling the team to accommodate and allow for growth shouldn’t be the factor that slows momentum. Virtual team members are not only valuable assets in the early days of getting a business up and running, they can be there for the lifespan of your business allowing you to focus your energy on the visionary and practical aspects. And of course, if your plans are just too grandiose to fit the current finances, your virtual bookkeeper will be that unbiased voice of reason to tell you and might even advise an alternate plan that you hadn’t thought of before!