In Pursuit of Profit
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As fractional accountants, we have experience with a wide array of “less than full-time” accounting engagements ranging from ongoing part-time work and extra assistance during busy periods to short-term project work and interim roles while a new accountant is hired. Of these, interim work is notoriously underutilized, which is disappointing because it is an area where bringing in help expeditiously can have a huge impact.
Why is interim accounting work usually overlooked? Typically, when a business owner loses their accountant, they simply opt to shoulder the burden of these duties while searching for a replacement. Whether this works depends on two factors: the owner’s financial skills and the length of the interim period. Business owners without hands-on financial skills will struggle to complete necessary bookkeeping tasks to keep the business running smoothly. Conversely, highly savvy owners may fare better taking over accounting functions until a new accountant can be hired – that is, if the gap is not very long. However, if the process drags on, even the most financially adept business owners will eventually get weighed down with the demands of doing two jobs, causing the business to suffer (not to mention resulting in professional burnout).
In today’s tight market this is an especially salient point because hiring is taking longer. Candidates are taking longer to move through the interview process because they are in no hurry to leave their existing roles and they are often evaluating multiple offers. As a result, employers are facing longer gaps these days when trying to bring in new accounting personnel, making interim help even more vital.
When business owners do bring in interim accountants, they are demonstrating that they understand how crucial these financial roles are to the overall success of the company. Every day we hope that business leaders will follow this path of bringing in accounting as a stopgap help right away when the need arises. However, just realizing that interim accounting help is available is only one piece of the puzzle. So, let’s also take a look at how to be successful when engaging in this type of professional relationship and how to work on hiring a replacement while you do so.
Understanding the Challenges of an Accounting Gap
Interim accountants are a great solution when you have lost your accountant to a career change, better job offer, retirement, illness, injury, family leave, or even death. Some interim engagements are meant to provide support for a designated time period until your accountant returns, like after a medical or family leave has ended. Other interim engagements do not have a specified end date because they cover a gap period until a replacement can be found for an accountant who has left permanently.
Regardless of why your accountant has left and how long you plan to be without one, someone will need to take over these duties to ensure the business does not fall behind on critical activities like accounts payables, accounts receivables, payroll, reconciliations, and reporting. Depending on the time of the year, state/local and federal taxes may also need to be filed. Piling these added activities on leadership is a big ask for personnel that is likely already very busy. However, delegating them to existing personnel in other business functions is a dicey proposition because they may not have the skillset needed to do the work (and taking the time needed to train them into the role may not be feasible). This is where the challenge exists in filling an accounting gap – the personnel best suited to take on the role typically do not have time to do so, and the personnel that are available to take on the role may not have the experience needed to do so. A fractional accountant can serve in an interim role to overcome both of these obstacles.
Finding Success with an Interim Accountant
Hiring an interim accountant can be a shrewd move to keep business operations running normally despite accounting staff turnover or absence. However, the success of an interim engagement depends on how it is managed. Eric Moore, the Practice Manager here at ASP, recommends taking the following steps:
Taking the time to deliberately plan for each of these aspects ensures that an interim accountant will thrive in the role for as long as you need them.
Tips for Hiring an Accountant
The end goal when hiring an interim accountant is to find a long-term solution, which means your organization should be continuously searching for a full-time accountant and evaluating candidates. Of course, this is often easier said than done. If the hiring process seems to be taking longer than it should, our team gives the following recommendations:
Looking to hire an interim accountant? We have a team of highly experienced senior accountants, staff accountants, and bookkeepers to fill any sort of accounting gap you are facing. If your accountant has given their notice or indicated that they will be retiring, we can get someone into the role quickly while you look for their replacement. Reach out to us today for more information!