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Internal Bookkeeping vs. Hiring a CPA Firm

bookkeeper vs cpa

Pros and cons to making an internal hire or outsourcing accounting tasks

Accounting is a vital part of running any business, but for most brewery, cidery, and winery owners, it isn’t their strong suit. It makes sense to delegate to a more experienced professional, but there are many options — do you need a part-time bookkeeper, an in-house accountant, or an external CPA?  

Like many questions in business, there is no one right answer, and your needs will likely change over the course of your company’s growth. We’re here to help you think through the options and figure out what’s right for you. 

Part-Time Bookkeeper 

As you’re getting started, a part-time bookkeeper may be your primary accounting hire. They can take care of basic accounting tasks, such as updating general ledger entries, completing monthly financial reports, handling payroll, and processing vendor and customer invoices. 

As an owner or manager, you should meet with your bookkeeper monthly to go over the books and make sure you have a complete understanding of what’s happening in your business. This will help you have the information you need to make decisions about hiring, production volume, sales goals, and more. 

When you’re working with a part-time hire, one thing to keep an eye on is efficiency and maximizing the employee’s time. Accounting can involve many manual and time-consuming tasks. By investing in an accounting platform and other software, like an inventory management system, you can make reconciliation easier. This will help your bookkeeper to work faster and more accurately, saving you money. 

A part-time bookkeeper may be sufficient for running your business day-to-day, but when it comes to quarterly reporting or annual tax returns, you may want to call in additional assistance. 

External CPA 

When it comes to more complicated accounting, an external CPA who has experience working with breweries and wineries can be a huge asset. There are dozens of experienced CPA firms that specialize in craft businesses and know the ins and outs of how to be successful in this industry. 

At a bare minimum, a quarterly check-in with an external CPA is a great idea to make sure you are tracking information appropriately. They can also help you prepare your tax returns and conduct an annual analysis of your business. 

As you think about growing and scaling your business, accounting becomes more than just a box you need to check. A CPA partner can help you dive deep into the numbers to understand opportunities and risks and help you make smart financial decisions. Everything from costs of raw materials and labor to product pricing and margins can be analyzed and optimized. Plus, a CPA may also have recommendations for SOPs or technology that can help you work more efficiently as a business. 

Outsourced CFO/Controller Services 

The expert financial services of a CFO/controller are necessary for successful craft breweries to reach the next level, but not every business needs these services on a full-time basis. As a result, many craft breweries, cideries and wineries either hire a full-time professional at a high expense rate, utilizing their skills only occasionally, or hire someone part-time at a lower rate without the full suite of skills needed by the business.  

A better option may be to engage an outsourced team of experts, so your craft beverage business can access an array of talent and avoid the risks associated with relying on a single person. This kind of team can help with tasks including designing a business plan, implementing internal controls and standard operating procedures, assisting with production cost control, forecasting and budgeting financial data, reviewing and maintaining banking relationships, reviewing sources and uses of capital, and meeting with specialists outside the business as appropriate. 

In-House Accounting Team 

As you graduate to distribution and managing increased demand for your products, it may be time to take your accounting team to the next level. You may start by hiring your bookkeeper full-time to ensure someone always has their eyes on the books. This person can also be the liaison to an external CPA, regardless of whether you work with them on a once-a-year or ongoing basis. 

Once you reach maturity and have multiple locations and a variety of sales channels, it likely will become more than one person can manage on their own. You may end up needing a CFO, a controller, and one or more staff accountants to administer your growing financial needs. The larger and more complex your business model becomes, the more experts you’ll need to manage your finances. 

Hiring an in-house team is an investment, but one that can have a major impact on how your business is able to grow. With dedicated professionals on staff, you know that financial information is accurate and up to date, allowing you to easily pull reports to help you take out loans or secure additional funding. 

Making the Choice for Your Business 

No matter your size or complexity, accounting needs to be a core part of your business strategy, not an afterthought. Start small and get your books in order and as you scale, figure out how to make the right additions to your accounting staff — both internally and externally — so that you have the right information to run and grow your business. There are many positive effects to investing in a strong team of business advisors who understand your industry and can help you increase efficiency and value so you can reach your goals.  

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