Financial Support for Business Owners: Understanding Your Financial Team

Understanding Financial Roles: A Guide for SME Owners

Clear communication and understanding of financial roles are crucial for the effective management and growth of your business. Many SME owners, however, encounter challenges due to misconceptions about the scope and responsibilities of various financial professionals. These misunderstandings can lead to mismatched expectations, inefficient practices, and ultimately, strained business operations.

This guide, part of the Growing Your Numbers initiative, is designed to demystify the roles and responsibilities of key financial figures within your company. By clarifying what each financial professional does, we aim to help you set realistic expectations and make more informed decisions about managing your financial team.

Understanding the actual responsibilities versus the common misconceptions of financial roles will not only enhance your operational efficiency but also empower you to build stronger, more productive relationships with your financial advisors. This clarity is essential as you navigate your business through its financial landscape, ensuring that your strategies and team alignment directly support your business objectives.

For SME business owners, understanding how to effectively engage with and utilise the expertise of an accountant is key. Here are some tailored questions that business owners should consider asking to ensure they are making the most of their relationship with their accountant:

  1. What specific financial expertise does my accountant offer
    Understand the particular skills and areas of specialty your accountant brings, such as tax strategy, compliance, financial forecasting, or business valuation.
  2. How does my accountant’s role differ from that of a bookkeeper or financial controller?
    Clarify the distinct responsibilities and services provided by your accountant compared to other financial roles to ensure you are not expecting services they don’t typically provide.
  3. What can I do to ensure that my business’s financial records are prepared correctly for my accountant?
    Ask about the best practices for record-keeping to streamline the accounting process and ensure accuracy in your financial reports.
  4. How often should I meet with my accountant to review financial performance and strategy?
    Determine the frequency of strategic meetings that will benefit your business planning and keep you aligned with your financial goals.
  5. What additional services can my accountant provide that could benefit my business growth?
    Explore beyond basic accounting and compliance to see if your accountant can offer advisory services, financial planning, or risk management advice.
  6. How can my accountant help me with long-term financial planning and forecasting?
    Ask how your accountant can assist in setting long-term goals, preparing financial forecasts, and planning for future growth or investment opportunities.
  7. What proactive measures should I be discussing with my accountant to prepare for market changes or economic shifts?
    Understand how to leverage your accountant’s expertise to anticipate and mitigate financial risks before they impact your business.
  8. Am I utilising the latest financial technologies recommended by my accountant to improve efficiency and compliance?
    Discuss whether implementing new financial software or cloud-based tools could enhance the efficiency of your financial operations.
  9. How can my accountant help in enhancing the financial health and credibility of my business with potential investors or lenders?
    Learn how your accountant can support efforts to secure financing or attract investors by ensuring that your financial affairs are in excellent order.
  10. Is my accountant up-to-date with the latest regulations and industry changes that affect my business?
    Verify that your accountant continuously updates their knowledge to keep your business compliant and informed about changes that could impact your operations.    

By asking these questions, SME owners can more effectively define the role of their accountant, align services with their business needs, and strengthen the financial management of their operations.

Understanding Financial Roles: Realities for SME Owners

Navigating the financial responsibilities within a business can be complex. Often, what SME owners perceive these roles to entail versus their actual functions can lead to gaps in expectations. Here’s a clearer picture of what each key financial role really does and how they can benefit your business:


Common Misconception: Just handling invoices or performing basic data entry.

Reality: Bookkeepers play a vital role in maintaining meticulous records of all financial transactions, managing payroll, and ensuring your financial records are up-to-date. These accurate records are crucial for effective management and preliminary financial reporting, forming the backbone of your financial integrity.


Common Misconception: Handles every financial aspect, including daily bookkeeping.

Reality: Accountants are your strategic partners in financial compliance, tax filing, and providing crucial strategic advice. They don’t typically manage daily transactions or conduct regular audits but focus on broader financial reporting, ensuring compliance and helping with strategic tax planning to enhance profitability.

Financial Controller

Common Misconception: Similar to a bookkeeper or not necessary in smaller operations.

Reality: A financial controller offers comprehensive oversight of your accounting operations and is pivotal in enhancing financial integrity through robust internal controls. They manage budgets and ensure your accounting practices support overall business strategies, crucial for scaling and managing growth effectively.

Financial Director

Common Misconception: Only necessary in larger companies or for managing investments.

Reality: Vital even in smaller enterprises, a financial director oversees the financial health of your company. They lead in strategic financial planning and risk management, aligning financial strategies with your business goals and guiding major financial decisions. Their expertise ensures that financial planning supports operational needs and growth ambitions.

How to Leverage These Insights

Use this guide to:

  • Assess your current team: Identify which roles are filled and which gaps you might need to address.
  • Set clear role expectations: Ensure that everyone understands their specific responsibilities and how they contribute to your business.
  • Enhance collaboration: Work more effectively with your financial team by knowing whom to approach for various financial tasks and decisions.      

Understanding the true roles and responsibilities of your financial team not only streamlines operations but also maximises the strategic value they bring to your business.

Key Responsibilities of each role

Use this as a start point to review your business needs.

Role:     Bookkeeper  (often outsourced, can be internal)

  • Recording financial transactions (invoices, payments, receipts)
  • Reconciling sales and bank accounts
  • Managing payroll and maintaining ledgers
  • Preparing preliminary financial statements
  • Processing payroll and ensuring accurate deductions and payments
  • Submitting VAT returns under the guidance of an accountant

Role:    Accountant
(typically external to the business)

  • Financial reporting and compliance (tax filing, financial statements)
  • Financial advising and planning
  • Auditing and assurance services
  • Strategic financial analysis
  • Handling VAT returns and compliance
  • Strategic tax planning including corporate tax and capital gains

Role:    Financial Controller
    (Usually part-time in SMEs)

  • Oversight of accounting operations
  • Budget management and variance analysis
  • Internal financial controls and audits
  • Supervising and reviewing payroll processing
  • Preparing detailed financial reports
  • Ensuring VAT compliance and effective record-keeping for financial audits

Role: Financial Director (Usually part-time in SMEs) 

  • Preparing forecasts and budgets
  • Strategic financial planning
  • Managing financial risks
  • Capital structure management
  • Key decision-maker in financial investments and long-term business planning
  • Oversight of financial compliance including VAT and other taxes
  • Ensuring that payroll is processed correctly and aligns with strategic financial goals