Accounting for small business and startups: issues and advice

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Small businesses and startups are common career destinations for accountants. These companies don’t employ the same number of people as more established organizations, but the large number of them across the country and world means they offer plenty of opportunities to accounting professionals. The millions of small organizations and entrepreneur-led startup groups have the same need for accounting expertise as larger companies. Professionals in the field can play critical roles in helping these businesses establish themselves, develop, and grow. Consider these accounting-focused issues in the world of small business and how graduates of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Bachelor of Science in Accounting online programs can use their knowledge to contend with and overcome them.

Three businesspeople at a table, reviewing information on laptops and smartphones.

A jack of all trades and a master of many

Small-business accounting involves much of the same educational foundation as similar roles at large organizations. However, day-to-day workflows and the overall scope of the job can be much different from highly defined and very specialized positions often seen at national and multinational companies that employ dozens or hundreds of accountants. A professional focused on accounting for startups or small businesses may have to do everything from setting up and maintaining accounting and bookkeeping software to managing cash flow during one of the most turbulent parts of a company’s lifecycle to offering advice about a variety of other functions related to finance and accounting.

Accountants often need to wear many hats when working for a small business or startup, because there simply aren’t enough staff for everyone to slot into a highly defined role and focus on a small number of responsibilities. Keep this in mind as you consider your potential employment options during your time in the UAB accounting program and after you graduate. Some people thrive in the more flexible and fluid environment offered by small businesses and startups, enjoying the wide range of challenges and the opportunity to contribute to general business development in a way that can fuel future career growth. However, others will do their best in a more structured and rigid job description that the corporate world often offers, focusing on excelling in their defined duties and taking opportunities to grow within that structure.

Applying startup accounting skills to daily challenges

Accountants need to be well-rounded to thrive in small-business and startup roles that can vary greatly from one day to the next. Students in UAB’s online accounting degree program enrich themselves with an educational foundation that emphasizes strong accounting skills in addition to learning about a number of business processes and concerns in the modern economy. Learners gain an accounting, business, analysis, and macroeconomic foundation from the Lower Level Core across 24 credit hours. From there, they develop a business-focused knowledge base stretching from marketing and information systems to operations management and professional development on a personal level across 22-25 credit hours of the Upper Level Core. Students then dive even deeper into the specifics of accounting with the Accounting Core, dedicating another 24 credit hours to their chosen field.

Important small-business accounting responsibilities to consider

This type of in-depth learning, combining a focus on accounting with significant exposure to many other areas of modern business activity, aligns strongly with the needs of accountants working for small businesses and startups. An accountant tasked with establishing general accounting workflows at a new startup or small business may have to do everything from opening bank accounts to establishing criteria for tracking expenses and setting up payroll and general bookkeeping systems. In this case, an understanding of information systems and business communications is almost as important as accounting knowledge itself.

In another scenario, an accountant may help manage business cash flow. While the owner or CEO and other high-level staff should be deeply involved in this critical process, the limited number of total employees means an accountant may have to play a key role. Far beyond just tracking cash flow and notifying business leaders about any issues, an accounting professional may also have to communicate about the break-even point, maintain close oversight over cash reserves, manage funds, and become involved in accounts payable and receivable to some degree. This is another example where a strong general business education may prove to be invaluable.

Students can learn small-business accounting skills at UAB

UAB prides itself on offering an educational environment for accountants that prepares them for the modern world of business along with the many specific skills tied to accounting. Students earning an accounting degree online enjoy this deeply beneficial learning environment on their own schedule, leveraging an asynchronous learning environment to balance existing personal and professional responsibilities. To learn more, get in touch with an enrollment advisor today.

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