In-House Bookkeepers vs. Full-Charge Bookkeepers

Balance in-house bookkeeping with full-charge bookkeeping.

In-house bookkeepers can get a lot done, but are they equipped to sustain your company’s financials as you grow? This is the question many business owners have as they scale.

As the company grows, so will the demands on your in-house bookkeeper. At a certain point, most small business owners find the additional staff can supplement their workforce in important ways. Let’s review your bookkeeping needs and explore the duties of more comprehensive positions, including full-charge bookkeeping.

What is a Full-Charge Bookkeeper?

When an in-house bookkeeper isn’t enough to manage your workload, upgrading to a full-charge bookkeeper can be a good solution. Full-charge bookkeepers are much like your in-house bookkeeper and typically handle a similar scope of duties:

  • Issue invoices, payments
  • Manage accounts payable/receivable
  • Monitor cash flow
  • Reconcile bank statements
  • Remit taxes

Most of these functions are already managed by your in-house bookkeeper(s). The key difference is that full-charge bookkeepers will also take on duties typically seen in controller roles. These can include making records of complex transactions, coordinating with CPAs or other outside experts, and reporting results to high-level management:

  • Issue statements/reports as needed
  • Manage full cycle of accounting duties
  • Prepare tax returns
  • Process timesheets and payroll
  • Review general ledger entries; make adjustments
  • Supervise other accounting staff

Full-charge bookkeepers get involved in client accounts and help manage each accounting cycle beyond basic bookkeeping functions. Their skills can be invaluable for businesses hoping to get a better handle on accounting and become more involved in financial reviews and analyses commonly performed by business accountants.

Bringing full-charge bookkeepers on board isn’t as simple as hiring them. Their skills need to be integrated effectively into your existing bookkeeping processes.

Balancing In-House Bookkeeping with Full-Charge Bookkeeping

As you can see, a full charge bookkeeper can be considered a big step up in accounting responsibility. Adding a full-charge staff member means you may need to examine your internal bookkeeping needs and hiring goals.

For example, if you’re currently getting by with two in-house bookkeepers and are considering training one to take on a full-charge role, you’ll need to take a thorough accounting (so to speak) of what tasks your new full charge team member will take on—and which tasks he or she will be leaving behind.

This can be tricky. Most companies that reach the point of needing a full-charge bookkeeper will have plenty of other lower-level functions to manage. Even small- to mid-size firms may employ several bookkeeping clerks, administrative assistants, or other personnel to manage clerical work. Adding a full-charge bookkeeper into the mix can drastically change the responsibilities and workflows of these existing teams.

And while a full-charge bookkeeper will eventually supervise these roles, you’ll need to make sure you’re appropriately staffed to fill the void this promotion leaves behind. Many companies find it easier to simply outsource a full-charge bookkeeper in the interest of maintaining internal staff consistency. Outsourced bookkeeping and accounting services can also fill the talent gaps caused by promoting within. Keep these issues in mind as you consider your staffing needs and be ready for some re-adjustment as you fill your bookkeeping roles.

When Should I Consider a Full-Charge Bookkeeper?

A full-charge bookkeeping role may not be a great fit for every company. This position fills a particular talent gap as a result of a small business’s growth. Most smaller businesses work with their own in-house teams or outsourced bookkeepers until they reach a certain size. At that point, they usually add high-level roles like controllers or CPAs full-time.

The long middle stages of this transition are when you might want to consider a full-charge bookkeeper. Full-charge bookkeepers take end-to-end control of accounting. They provide companies with a top-level view of their accounting functions. This type of strategic insight is important for companies hoping to grow, and it’s not usually part of bookkeepers’ traditional roles. At a certain point, you’ll need to begin leveraging these types of insights to keep pace with competitors, many of whom may be leveraging these strategies already.

More complicated roles tend to require more training, so you’ll need to source candidates carefully. Some companies find their own in-house bookkeepers can fill the role with a little extra training. Others find it more helpful to just bring new talent on board. Either way, a good first step in the process is to secure a provider of outsourced accounting and bookkeeping services to help fill these demands.

Get more advice on establishing better accounting and bookkeeping practices with our free guide below.

The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Growing Your Bottom Line with QuickBooks