When an entrepreneur dreams of launching their own business, those dreams don’t include scrutinizing balance sheets and income statements. A lot of small business owners have a great passion for their products, but nearly zero background in accounting or bookkeeping.
So, if you’re starting an ecommerce business without much financial experience, we have some good news: small business accounting books can help you overcome this challenge.
In this article, we’ll walk you through our recommended reads on small business accounting and how they can help you take control of your small business finances.
What are small business accounting books?
If you’re a business owner with a bookkeeper or accountant, any mention of accounting “books” may bring to mind various financial statements that illustrate your own finances or that of your company (depending on the business type you’ve set up). These may include net income statements, which show how much revenue the company takes in after expenses, or cash flow statements showing the financial transactions going both in and out of the company.
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Most small businesses today don’t track business finances in literal bound books. They typically use accounting software that links to a business bank account, monitors its transactions, and generates financial reports. Of course, these reports can be printed when needed.
For Nev Lapwood, the founder of Snowboard Addiction, doing the bookkeeping for his business himself—using an accounting program called Xero—worked well.
“We sell predominantly in US dollars, but we’re based in Canada, so we’re constantly dealing in two currencies, which makes it a little bit more complicated,” Nev said during his episode of Shopify Masters. “With my new accounting program, it’s been a lot easier to deal with multi currencies, and also inventory. Now that we’re selling physical products, there’s a lot more accounting for inventory, forecasting how much are you going to need, how much are you holding, how much are you selling. We set up systems that have helped us be able to maintain and control that aspect of the business.”
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Startup small business owners, however, may not have the financial resources to hire bookkeeping staff. And in such cases, may take on the accountant role themselves—an important responsibility in any company. That’s because small business accounting and bookkeeping are essential areas to invest in for the sake of growth. They help you realize and manage the cash flows going in and out of your company, which is useful when applying for business loans or filing taxes.
Nev agrees it’s important to stay on top of how your business accounting and finances work: this knowledge can help you make better decisions for the future of your business.
“If you’re handing off all your accounting to a bookkeeper and accountant, how much are you meeting with them to keep on track of it? Are they keeping you up to date with where you’re at?” Nev added. “Because, the money that’s sitting in your bank is not always the money that you’re making. You could be a lot more profitable than your bank’s showing, or you could be a lot less profitable than what your bank’s showing.”
If you decide to go deeper into this area of your business the way Nev did it, small business accounting books can help you gain a better basic understanding of the accounting process so you can run your company with greater confidence.
Three basic accounting principles for small business owners
- Assets vs. liabilities
- Double-entry vs. single-entry bookkeeping
- Cash method accounting vs. accrual method accounting
It doesn’t take long to discover that financial professionals treat business finances differently than personal finances. Therefore, small business owners aiming to strengthen their financial literacy will want to know these three key accounting concepts:
1. Assets vs. liabilities
In business accounting, the term asset describes a company resource that generates income or value for the business. Examples include real estate, merchandise, equipment, intellectual property, and a human workforce. Meanwhile, the term liability describes a financial obligation to a person or organization outside the business that decreases value for the company. A typical small business liability is monetary debt, but this category also includes machinery depreciation, balances owed in accounts payable, and pending taxes to be paid. Understanding how assets and liabilities work is crucial for any business owner running a business.
2. Double-entry vs. single-entry bookkeeping
Small businesses typically record their business transactions using either single ledger entries or double ledger entries. The single-entry method records business transactions—both deposits into bank accounts and debits out of those accounts—as a single transaction. The equivalent in personal finance is keeping a check register, which is a record of posted checks and cash transactions.
The double-entry method counterbalances each bookkeeping entry with a corresponding and opposite entry in a different account. Let’s say your company purchases a credit card reader for $225. You would record a debit entry of $225 in an expense account and an offsetting credit entry of $225 in a cash asset account.
Many smaller businesses—with small numbers of financial transactions—appreciate the simplicity of a single-entry system. A double-entry accounting system can be a suitable accounting method for a business of any size, but it helps to have a trained bookkeeper recording your transactions if you use this method.
3. Cash method accounting vs. accrual method accounting
Ecommerce accounting often uses the cash basis accounting system, in which bookkeepers declare revenues and expenses at the moment they are actually received or paid. The other popular option is the accrual method accounting system. In accrual accounting, bookkeepers track the company’s accounts receivable and accounts payable and then record revenue and expense transactions when deals are struck, as opposed to when cash is transferred in or out of bank accounts.
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11 book recommendations for small business owners
- Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits! 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential
- Accounting Made Simple: Accounting Explained in 100 Pages or Less
- Accounting All-in-One for Dummies
- Accounting for the Numberphobic: A Survival Guide for Small Business Owners
- Accounting for Non-Accountants: Financial Accounting Made Simple for Beginners
- Finance for Nonfinancial Managers
- Small Time Operator: How to Start Your Own Business, Keep Your Books, Pay Your Taxes, and Stay Out of Trouble
- The Accounting Game: Basic Accounting Fresh from the Lemonade Stand
- Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine
- Financial Statements: A Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding and Creating Financial Reports
- Accounting QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner’s Guide to Real-World Financial & Managerial Accounting For Students, Business Owners and Finance Professionals
If you’re new to business finance or don’t have a bookkeeper or certified public accountant you could ask for help, you may find value in accounting books designed for small business owners and ecommerce entrepreneurs. Here are 11 titles that could be worthy of your time:
1. Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits! 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential
Author: Greg Crabtree
In this text, accountant Greg Crabtree discusses how accounting practices can seamlessly lead to a business strategy that grows your company. This book is designed for people who are just as interested in entrepreneurship as they are in bookkeeping.
2. Accounting Made Simple: Accounting Explained in 100 Pages or Less
Author: Mike Piper, CPA
Part of a larger series called Financial Topics in 100 Pages or Less, this book gives a solid overview of accounting basics from generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to reading financial statements. If you run a sole proprietorship or some other type of small business, this book may contain all you need to know about bookkeeping and financial reporting.
3. Accounting All-in-One for Dummies
Authors: Kenneth W. Boyd, Lita Epstein, Mark P. Holtzman, Frimette Kass-Shraibman, Maire Loughran, Vijay S. Sampath, John A. Tracy, Tage C. Tracy, and Jill Gilbert Welytok
This book, part of the popular For Dummies series, is a survey of the basic accounting principles you might encounter as a small business owner, such as cash versus accrual basis accounting, preparing income statements, and self-auditing. It could be one of the first books you read to start your bookkeeping or accounting journey, before pursuing topics in greater depth, as needed.
4. Accounting for the Numberphobic: A Survival Guide for Small Business Owners
Author: Dawn Fotopulos
Sometimes, people freeze up at the mention of a net income statement or cash flow report. Author Dawn Fotopulos seeks to demystify these topics using simple language. This book may not be for a future CPA, but it’s a welcoming way for a small business entrepreneur to learn the basics of bookkeeping.
5. Accounting for Non-Accountants: Financial Accounting Made Simple for Beginners
Author: Wayne A. Label, CPA, MBA, PhD
Author Wayne A. Label understands that a lot of small business entrepreneurs aren’t going to have a budget to keep an accountant on staff—they’re going to have to manage their financial record keeping books themselves. This guide teaches you how to track expenses, record revenue, pay taxes, and handle the basic financial requirements of running a small business.
6. Finance for Nonfinancial Managers
Author: Gene Siciliano
Are you an entrepreneur who’s product knowledgeable but unfamiliar with terms like EBIT or gross profit? If so, you may benefit from Finance for Nonfinancial Managers, which defines these types of key terms. In this book, CPA and certified management consultant Gene Siciliano addresses managers who have to make strategic decisions on behalf of their company but may lack the financial literacy to do so. If you’re managing others in your small business—including those with minimal financial literacy—Siciliano’s insights may be just what you need.
7. Small Time Operator: How to Start Your Own Business, Keep Your Books, Pay Your Taxes, and Stay Out of Trouble
Author: Bernard B. Kamoroff, CPA
As its title suggests, Small Time Operator focuses on solo practitioners, home businesses, small ecommerce businesses, and contractors juggling clients. If this describes you, you may find valuable financial and accounting guidance in this book, which includes best practices for bookkeeping, tax reporting, and financing your business.
8. The Accounting Game: Basic Accounting Fresh from the Lemonade Stand
Author: Darrell Mullis and Judith Orloff
This book presents small-business accounting through the lens of running a children’s lemonade stand, under the premise that the two things are more synonymous than one might think. Even when the book tackles thornier accounting topics such as accrual method accounting, it circles back to simple points of reference—specifically a child’s lemonade stand—to keep readers from feeling overwhelmed.
9. Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine
Author: Mike Michalowicz
If you find your small business is costing you a lot more money than it’s generating, it may be time to recalibrate your strategy. Mike Michaelowicz urges entrepreneurs to flip the “Sales – Expenses = Profit” formula on its head and, essentially, pay your company first (like the pay-yourself-first philosophy, but for companies). With his profit first mantra, Michalowicz aims to help small business owners push past living check to check. Consider this book if you already know you need to reverse the direction of your overall cash flows.
10. Financial Statements: A Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding and Creating Financial Reports
Author: Thomas R. Ittelson
Thomas R. Ittelson’s Financial Statements skips past motivating mantras and quick tips to instead drill down on tangible accounting skills. This handbook covers the types of financial statements associated with small business accounting—from profit and loss statements (or income statements) to double-entry accounting. It explains how each works independently and together, then takes what you learned to build out the books of a hypothetical company.
11. Accounting QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner’s Guide to Real-World Financial & Managerial Accounting For Students, Business Owners and Finance Professionals
Author: Josh Bauerle, CPA
Part of the QuickStart Guides series, this book aims to connect with three different audiences: small business owners, accounting students, and financial professionals looking to refine their skills—making it a good all-purpose read. Ecommerce entrepreneurs will specifically benefit from Bauerle’s breakdown of cash flow double-entry accounting and tax reporting.
Small business accounting books FAQ
Are there any accounting books for those without prior accounting knowledge?
There is no shortage of accounting books written for small business owners with no background in accounting or finance. Titles worthy of consideration include Financial Statements by Thomas R. Ittelson, Small Time Operator by Bernard B. Kamoroff, and Accounting Made Simple by Mike Piper.
Are there any books that focus on small business accounting software?
You can find bookkeeping titles that specifically focus on the use of accounting software. One leading software application is Intuit’s QuickBooks, and the book QuickBooks Online for Beginners 2023 explores small business accounting through the lens of that program. Another option is Mastering QuickBooks 2023 by Crystalynn Shelton.
What should small business owners look for when choosing an accounting book?
Small business owners should look for an accounting book that is written to the level of their knowledge of finance and bookkeeping. Many titles are intended for people with minimal financial literacy, while others assume a baseline knowledge of accounting and bookkeeping. Some accounting books double as business strategy guides, and others tackle only the subject of accounting. Consider which perspective best fits your business needs before picking a title.