What does an accounting manager actually do?

Accountant | Businesses

You probably didn’t go into business to do maths. You didn’t like it in school and, if you’re like most business owners or managers, you loathe it in the business world. It’s a necessary evil, but an evil none the less. Even those companies who hire accountants end up getting involved with numbers at some stage.

The problem with some accountants is that they don’t look beyond their calculator to see the big picture. Instead, they crunch their numbers until something doesn’t add up and then run to you with a problem you don’t have time or energy to figure out. In most cases, the issues are minor and easily solvable, but many accounting teams, regardless of size, simply don’t have the skills to deal with them if no one is in charge.

One solution is to hire an accounting manager. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a math genius to figure out what this position does, but we’ll spell it out anyway. An accounting manager manages the accounting team. And while that description may seem anticlimactic, it’s no MasterChef Australia finale that’s for sure, many Australian firms are bringing these professionals aboard to ensure they have one less thing to worry about.

The accounting manager position is one that big organisations have used for years, but it is something more and more small and mid-sized enterprises are establishing. Having someone in this role allows overworked business owners and management staff to stop micromanaging accountant teams, freeing them up to focus on other matters at hand.

You’re probably intrigued by the thought of this and want to know more before you set about hiring one. Here is what an accounting manager actually does and what skills and qualifications applicants will need should you be considering hiring one. Best of all, we promise to keep this free of numbers and other accounting jargon you probably don’t understand.

Day-to-day tasks

Each and every day, the accounting manager will be guaranteeing your company has enough money to stay in business. This includes making sure you’re paying vendors, tracking all dollars so none disappear, overseeing the money that is coming into the coffers and other tasks that are cash flow related.

They will also be overlooking financial records and maintaining them on a daily basis because not doing this almost always lands your company in hot water. They can keep an eye on transactions, purchases and expenses as well. This is often neglected and you might be surprised to find some of the outrageous things employees are trying to claim back. There are numerous other smaller details an accounting manager deals with daily, but we won’t go over all the finer details here.

The big picture stuff

If you don’t have an accounting manager or someone in charge of the balance sheet, chances are all monthly and yearly budget analysis and forecasting is either being completed by someone who never learned how to do it properly or isn’t being done at all. Simply put, this is bad. Really bad.

In addition to completing vital regular reporting, this position should be looking at accounting policies and procedures and finding ways to improve them. Many businesses, especially those experiencing rapid growth, implement accounting policies and then forget about them, leaving employees to do whatever they please.

Additionally, an accounting manager can track all financial and accounting goals at company-wide and departmental levels. This is helpful if your business has incentives based on financial performance – or simply wants a more detailed analysis.

Dealing with unenviable tasks

An accounting manager will take charge of any discrepancies or issues between junior accountants; they can also serve as an interpreter, listening to what is being said and then translating it into something clear and relatable. And should you ever need to hire or replace an accountant, a difficult task if there ever was one, you can let someone who knows what they are doing take the lead.

This person should be working with other departments to communicate accounting policies and procedures and taking it a step further by enforcing them. This means you finally won’t have to be the bad guy for once!

Make life easier

An accounting manager can work with other departments to ease some of their burdens. For example, sales teams almost always prioritise making new sales as opposed to following up on payments and invoices. This might even be something you encourage in today’s competitive business environment. But if your company is not focusing on collecting payments, then you might as well be captain of the Titanic because you’re leading a sinking ship.

As a report from Deloitte notes, if customers are paying late or not at all, it impacts your cash flow and may lead to you needing to take out a loan or make budget cuts. With an accounting manager on your team, this won’t be necessary. Since they will be looking after the accounts, they can nudge your sales staff to follow up on payments and make sure they aren’t offering mate’s rates inappropriately. You might even have them take charge of the process altogether, so sales can focus on closing that next big deal.

While you are going to have to spend money on the new accounting manager’s salary, benefits and taxes, you’ll also see a lot more money coming in as accounts gone for a walkabout are forced to pay up.

What qualifications does an accounting manager need?

Now that you have seen what an accounting manager actually does, you also need to know what to look for when hiring one. A university degree and at least five years of accounting experience is a start. If you are in a very technical industry such as healthcare or construction, you might also want someone with knowledge in this field. Candidates with experience leading people in some capacity should be preferred, but not required.

Since organisation, communication and commitment are vital to being a successful accounting manager, you will want proof that applicants actually possess these skills. We reckon you’re not looking to welcome a wallflower or a bludger onto your staff just now, so make sure you check out a potential candidate’s credentials before you offer them a position.

Got no coin, get an accounting manager

Unless you don’t mind having brass razoo, your business will need an accounting manager at some point in time. Even if you employ an accountant or multiple accountants, your company will never benefit without someone who knows what they’re doing taking ownership of these efforts.

This isn’t to say an accounting manager will immediately turnaround cash flow problems and stop wasteful spending, you’re not hiring a math magician after all. However, they can find the root cause of these issues and correct them over time.

Having a good accounting manager is similar to an Aussie rules club having a good nutritionist on their staff. Sure, it’s not necessary for success, but it can provide an extra advantage in an ultra-competitive environment. It also allows for coaches to focus on what they do best without fretting over diets, something they aren’t likely to know a lot about.

Naturally, there’s a lot more a person in this role can do for your firm. Job search website Monster has a fairly comprehensive job description that offers an in-depth look at everything the accounting manager role can handle. If you need to know anything else about an accounting manager or how they can benefit your business, give us a ring.

Comments