By Lucy Fox, General Manager UK Cloud Solutions for Exact

It may sound painfully obvious but, for any business, getting the finances right is critical. If the owner doesn't have a good handle of the finances, it won’t thrive and grow. However, our own research found that almost one quarter of all the business owners and leaders asked stated that finances and accounting was their biggest cause of stress, while 20% admitted to having forgotten to invoice for a job. In total, this means small businesses in the UK are losing out on potential revenue of around £3.7 billion - a staggering amount. Clearly, therefore, many firms are struggling.

The fact is, staff in startups and small businesses are often forced to be jack-of-all-trades. Where medium-sized businesses and large corporates have whole departments assigned to different functions - finance, marketing, corporate communications and IT for example - small businesses must cover all bases, with staff often taking on several different roles at once - with Financial Director one of these roles. It’s no wonder then that many struggle with finances.

One way of getting around this problem is to seek the help of an accountant. Whereas previously most small businesses only spoke to their accountants at year end, sending them a messy shoebox of dog-eared receipts, many of the most forward-looking and innovative are realising that accountants can offer much more. Rather than simply helping with tax returns, these accountants are now working collaboratively with their small business clients as trusted financial advisors, effectively filling the Finance Director function and taking the pain out of financial management.

The rise of cloud computing has made this collaboration easier than ever before. Exact Online’s Starter for example, an inexpensive and easy-to-use solution, takes the headache out of accounting and allows startups, small businesses and sole traders, to work closely with their accountant. Features like the ability to invoice automatically from the system and upload scanned receipts from a smartphone or tablet take the stress out of managing the books.

For accountants, cloud accounting systems end the nightmare of the shoebox. With accounts updated automatically and in real-time, they no longer need to use their precious time to sort through piles of receipts and invoices, checking and rechecking the accuracy of the books. They can see the state of their client's finances in real-time, allowing them to add real value by giving strategic and up to date financial advice as their client needs it - not just at year end.

All of this means that small businesses and startups no longer have to struggle with their finances and can get on with doing what they do best - building their companies and going for growth.