A lot of accounting schools prepare you to do the numbers for larger organizations, focusing on various specialties and then tying them together. That type of education tends to leave one ready for the challenge of large business. The reality is, however, that a lot of people who become accountants actually decide to get involved with small business accounting because they find better opportunity there.
Some Differences Between Small Business Accounting and Large Business Accounting
There are several differences that you will notice in a small firm if you are coming from a larger firm, the first of which is probably that the processes are not as formalized, giving you the opportunity to create efficiency while you handle the books.
Another difference is that there is obviously not going to be the degree of specialization as you find in larger firms. Instead of being segmented into different types of accounting functions, you will likely be lucky to find accounts receivable and accounts payable, represented by separate employees. Because of that, you need to be prepared to wear several hats at once and understand that the added responsibility you have should be looked upon as part of the allure of working for a smaller firm.
From a nuts and bolts perspective, many small companies are not publicly held and therefore do not have the same financial accounting requirements as large companies. The focus will likely be more on managerial accounting and ensuring that the books are current and accurate.
The World of Small Business Accounting
If you are interviewing with a small business and wonder if it is an environment that would be good for you from an accounting perspective, it is a good idea to spend some time with the accounting staff to learn about their particular system before you accept any position. This is largely because an overview will show you if there are any practices that may be problem areas, as well as revealing if you will have the power to change them once you come aboard.
Once you decide to join the firm, your responsibilities will typically be broad, yet somewhat undefined. One good way to get started is to take on a project in your free time, like auditing the most recent year's results so that you can understand the flow of business and how each type of transaction has been recorded in the past. Based on the results of your audit, you'll be able to suggest changes to reporting practices that are in line with what you expect. You may also want to consider formalizing processes for the sake of having your co-workers tackle tasks with consistency that comes from knowing the way they are supposed to accomplish something.
Overall, working in small business accounting can be a real joy if you like to work in a close-knit group of people, want responsibility for a greater share of work, and have a passion for the product or service that your company provides.