Breaking Down the Bookkeeper, Accountant and CFO Roles

By Paul Johnson

While most organizations know they need to have someone helping them with their accounting, when it comes to what skillset they need there is often some confusion. Similar to other professions, there are many different types of roles that accountants play. Below I review the three which we most commonly are asked about: bookkeepers, accountants and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs).

Bookkeepers – A bookkeeper primarily focuses on the daily tasks of recording transactions, creating invoices, making payments, performing bank reconciliations and similar other functions. Their focus is on ensuring that all of the data from transactions is available and entered timely into the accounting system. They typically do not focus on the overall financial health of the organization as that’s where accountants come in.

Accountants – These professionals rely on the information collected and recorded by the bookkeepers in order to perform their tasks. Typically, an accountant will look at the organization’s financial picture from a higher vantage point. An accountant is involved in preparing and analyzing the financial statements of the organization, evaluating the costs of business operations and helping the owners/management understand the financial impact of business decisions. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is an accountant that has passed a professional examination and met a certain level of experience.

CFOs – Chief Financial Officers are accountants, often CPAs, with previous business experience and acumen to assist the owners/management in making strategic business decisions. While CFOs delve into the financial statements of the organization to diagnose and correct concerns, their value to an organization doesn’t stop there. Working closely with the management team to set the course of business strategy, a CFO considers how other organizational influences will impact business decisions. Areas such as organizational culture, branding, technology and business models are often considered by the CFO when advising management.

While all three of these roles are important, organizations wishing to grow should work with, at a minimum, an accountant, and I would recommend a CFO caliber individual. Working with an outsourced accounting provider such as Atlasphere Consulting enables businesses of all sizes to realize the benefits the three roles play at a fixed affordable monthly cost.