Startups are built on an innovative idea, a dream – and a solid financial foundation. Crunching the numbers in an efficient and time-effective manner, and analyzing those numbers in a timely manner is critical to growing a successful business. Two of the top online bookkeeping and accountancy services that are marketing themselves strongly to small businesses and early-stage startups are Pilot and Bench.

To start, each of these solutions both have a very reasonable monthly price point and both services are very similar in their bookkeeping capabilities.  But before you commit to these services for a required twelve-month term, you may want to read more about how these two services compare. In addition, you may want to consider a more experienced accounting firm when your business model and revenue model are more complex and require more than merely classifying your credit card transactions and banking transactions. If your business has revenue and requires an interpretation of the US GAAP accounting rules, then you may want to expand your scope of accounting partners.

Pilot vs. Bench

Pilot Pricing

Pilot Bookkeeping is a financial AI company with pre-set pricing plans for small businesses and rapidly-growing VC-backed startups. Pilot’s pricing for their “Core” and “Select” programs assume a minimum of $15,000 in monthly business expenses and scale-up in price from that baseline.
Core: Starting at $599/month billed annually upfront and does not allow for early termination. Includes the following:

  • A dedicated finance expert
  • Accrual basis bookkeeping
  • P&L, balance sheet, and cash flow statements
  • Monthly financial support and advice

Select: Starting at $849/month billed annually upfront and does not allow for early termination. Includes the following:

  • Industry-standard financial ratios

  • Expedited books delivery

  • Monthly phone reviews

  • Priority financial support

Plus: Is custom pricing only and includes the following:

  • Support for multiple entities, classes, & locations

  • AR, AP, and inventory tracking

  • Billable expenses

  • Fully customizable chart of accounts

Bench Pricing

Bench Accounting is a bookkeeping service with various price plans that support all kinds of small businesses. Bench offers less in the way of services overall, such as a lack of bill and invoice tracking or inventory tracking, which is reflected in its lower price point. Given the size of your business or the complexity of your financials, however, this could be a plus for using Bench. The Bench plans include the following price points:

  • Starter: $139/m (monthly expenses below $1k)

  • Micro: $159/m (monthly expenses between $1k and $7.5k)

  • Boutique: $179/m (monthly expenses from $7.5k to $25k)

  • Venture: $219/m (monthly expenses from $25k to $50k)

  • Corporate: Starting at $299/m (monthly expenses up to $1m)

    *Add-on specialized bookkeeping starting at an additional $83/month is required for asset tracking, third-party revenue collection, or revenue and expense tracking on a cash basis. Custom pricing is also applied if you are tracking more than 15 financial accounts (e.g., bank accounts, credit cards, loans, merchant processors).

    Feature Comparison At-a-Glance

Pros & Cons

Both Pilot and Bench offer bookkeeping services that link to your financial accounts and automatically categorize and register your transactions. Bench defaults to the simpler cash basis bookkeeping model for a wide range of small businesses that make less than $5 million in gross sales per year. Pilot offers the more complex accrual-based accounting models required by companies that do a lot more invoicing or subscription-based services or need to account for inventory.

As Pilot is explicitly geared towards rapidly-growing businesses, they also aim to act as a one-stop-shop for financial services with access to CFO Consultants and R&D Loan Applications. These services cost extra, however, and many customers whose finances become more complex find that the price they initially signed up with balloons very quickly as their business begins to grow and get more complex in nature. These initial pricing quotes hadn’t accounted for the a-la-carte add-ons that quickly add up. Many of Pilot’s customers complain about being “nickeled and dimed” to death.

Both Pilot and Bench, for example, offer tax filings and financial consulting services, but they cost extra as needed. Small businesses using Bench that initially only require cash basis accounting and then evolve towards an accrual basis also face sharp increases. And, since you are locked into your annual contract, this new pricing may quickly become untenable.

Many of the financial services required by startups, such as loan management and fundraising advice, are not offered at all by Bench or only at a premium by Pilot.  And at that point, do you really want to find another service provider for these services?

If your finances are straightforward or you consider yourself financially savvy and you just need a service to help you maintain your books, Pilot or Bench offer a range of packages that would be perfect for your needs. But, if you need all that, plus strategic insights into your finances, tax filings, and a roadmap towards financial health and expansion, it is worth expanding your scope and request a consultation with an accounting firm that can provide you with an alternative.

While you may be apprehensive about spending money on accounting services so early in your business lifecycle, it’s essential to consider that an accountant does more than create financial statements. A CPA takes your business’ bookkeeping data and uncovers insights that directly lead to smarter business decisions and business growth. And in the long run, it may cost you a lot more if your company makes a bad decision or takes a wrong turn. An experienced accountant has seen many different scenarios and can help you navigate the shark-infested waters.

Hiring a fractional CFO and/or accountant is extremely scalable and cost-effective.  Initially, the fractional accountant may only work with you for a couple of hours a week, and as they help you scale your business, you can scale up your relationship with the experienced firm instead of having to change your accounting partners mid-stream. By starting with a more experienced firm, they will be able to retain the history of your business and understand the changing challenges of your business. An accounting firm will also offer you flexibility in services, so they are always focusing their resources on the biggest drivers of the growth for your business.

Here are just a couple of the many benefits an accounting firm can provide your business

1. Provides Transformative Business Advice

An accounting firm can provide you with powerful insights that help grow your business, including but not limited to the following:

  • How to minimize expenses

  • Determine your most valuable clients/target market

  • Pivot on trends in your finances that help earn higher profits

  • Determine how much money to invest in a growth plan

  • Analyze the ROI of marketing initiatives

2. Facilitate the growth of your startup with more robust operational systems and processes

Outsourced accounting firms are experts at what they do. Newly implemented time and expense tracking and labor cost allocation allow you to make smarter decisions without having to put as much work in. Reporting systems provide easy to interpret reports and make it easier to identify both positive and negative trends that allow you to optimize for peak efficiency.

3. Create financial forecasts

Your accounting team provides direction and oversight for financial forecasting that projects your profitability cash requirements so you can intelligently control expenses. The accounting team will also help you develop your internal business processes, including accounting controls, as well as checks & balances to ensure you stay on track to meet your financial goals.

4. Provide insight on cash flow patterns

Your accounting team will develop cash flow statements that incorporate net income, long term assets, stockholder equity, and liabilities. Through regular evaluation of cash flow, they also help incorporate cash improvement programs.

5. Scale Your Business

An accounting firm can support the scaling of your business by completing the following:

  • Ensuring your financial infrastructure is ready to scale with your business

  • Determining the most cost-efficient tax structure

  • Applying for multi-state registrations if applicable

  • Helping obtain financing and apply for loans

  • Performing financial forecasts and financial risk assessment

6. Assess and tackle financial challenges

Finally, it can be helpful to bring in an accounting firm when you are struggling financially and need help righting the ship. The earlier you bring in expert advice, the easier it will be to get back on the path to financial health.

Issues an accounting firm can help remedy include:

  • Poor cash flow and profitability

  • High business overhead

  • High client churn

  • Inability to raise capital

  • Debt management and loan repayment

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San Francisco startups look to GCG for expert accounting advice

Greenough Group’s client accounting services and CFO consulting services are highly sought by both startups and Fortune 500 companies alike.

Our reputation for accuracy, senior attention, and exceptional client service has made us one of the financial community’s most highly recommended back-office services firms. Contact us today for a free consultation and learn how we can help you not only keep your books in order but focus on growing your business.