The Bottom Line: Outsource your bookkeeping for a reasonable monthly fee. Save time and money and get back to doing what you do best: running your business. One of America's largest bookkeeping services.
Bench Accounting, branded simply as “Bench”, is a fintech company that automates accounting for small- to medium-sized businesses.
For a scaled monthly fee, you get the following: dedicated bookkeeper, access to the Bench software, accurate monthly books, year-end financials, and tax season support.
Get out from under your own Books and outsource your bookkeeping.
Features: Outsourced Accounting & Financial Reporting
Fees: $139 per month
Promotion: Try it Free for 30 Days (refer a friend for an extra 30 days free + $150 Visa gift card)
What is Bench?
Bench is a fintech company that aims to, in its words, “help entrepreneurs master their financial lives.” With this lofty promise in hand, Bench aims to take the pain out of bookkeeping for small- and medium-sized business owners.
How does Bench do this? By offering to outsource your bookkeeping to a dedicated team of bookkeepers.
Traditional accounting — or those doing the bookkeeping themselves through QuickBooks — is cumbersome, time-consuming, and difficult to do well.
Bench wants business owners to, for a monthly fee, dispense with DIY bookkeeping and join the thousands of customers working with Bench. Bench wants to give you a leg up on your accounting.
Despite the crowded bookkeeping market, Bench has differentiated itself with its hybrid approach to accounting.
Your team of accountants works together with the Bench software platform (more on this later) to reconcile accounts and to order your financials into easy-to-view reports.
In a way, Bench offers bookkeeping as a service and aims to take the pain out of bookkeeping for business owners.
Let’s take a look at how Bench started and who Bench competes against.
Bench was founded in 2010 under the name 10Sheet Services, Inc., by Ian Crosby and Jordan Menashy. Two years later, Crosby and Menashy were joined by Adam Saint and Pavel Rodionov to round out the team and prepare the prototype.
In 2012 the company joined the tech accelerator Techstars. The next year, in 2013, the company raised seed capital, changed the name to Bench, and opened to the public.
Bench is headquartered in Vancouver and, at the time of this writing, boasts a 300-plus-strong headcount.
Bench has rapidly grown in size and popularity since inception in 2012 and 2013. Originally Bench targeted US-based companies but has since grown to pursue the 1+ million small businesses in Canada.
Bench targets the bookkeeping and tax return verticals for small- and medium-sized businesses. However, given its hybrid approach — a blend of humans and technology — Bench has two sets of competitors.
The first set is software-only competitors, those who offer technology but do not offer the key human component. The second set is the hybrid competitors, those whose offering blends human bookkeeping with a software or platform solution.
Below is a small cross-section of Bench software-only competitors. After that a shorter list of hybrid (or true) competitors.
Sage 50 Cloud
While Bench is a relatively new entrant into the bookkeeping market, it can be said that it represents the promising future of blended accounting services.
We expect additional outsourcing or ‘accounting-as-a-service’ models to crop up in the years to come.
Automated bookkeeping. Bookkeeping done every month by a human-technology team.
Committed Support. Unlimited 1-on-1 support, with inquiries answered in one business day or less.
Dedicated bookkeeping team. You work with a team of up to three bookkeepers, including one senior bookkeeper.
No software or download. Easy-to-use online interface for managing and exploring your company’s financial reports.
Cash or Accrual. Offers cash accounting, with the option to add accrual accounting (still in progress as of mid-2019).
Mobile access. Access the Bench platform via the iPhone app or through your mobile web browser.
Training Available. Live online, in person, or documentation-based training.
Scalable Pricing Plans. Different pricing plans available depending on a company’s monthly average expenses.
Clear Financial Data. Easy access to your income statement, balance sheet, revenue, expenses, and profits.
Real-time cash flow with Pulse. Access to Pulse, Bench’s real-time cash flow management system, which allows for monitoring of every transaction.
How Does Bench Work?
So, maybe you’ve heard about Bench from a friend or fellow business owner. You’re interested in outsourcing your bookkeeping — who wants to do the books anyways?
In this section, we’re going to walk you through the core elements of Bench, including what you can expect as you get into the service.
Bench’s offering can be divided into three main elements, which we will cover in greater detail below.
- The Bench Platform & Reporting
- Tax Preparation
In addition, we want you to understand what to expect when you sign up for Bench and begin using their services.
Below is a walkthrough of just what it takes to get up and running with Bench.
“Let Bench do your bookkeeping for you.” This is the claim that Bench shouts from the rooftops, and that has attracted thousands of business owners and monumental growth since its inception in 2012.
The key feature of Bench is that the business owner can outsource their bookkeeping to a dedicated team of bookkeepers for a reasonable fee. These are trained accounting professionals that work for Bench and that do your accounting for you every month.
You will work directly with a team of three bookkeepers, one senior and two junior bookkeepers, who will prepare your books every month. Bench states that the bookkeeping will be completed and ready for review within 15 days.
Your team of bookkeepers will also work with you to add needed documents, correct any mistakes, and answer any questions you may have.
During the month you will have access to the Bench platform, which is where the bookkeepers record your financial data. More on this next.
The Bench Platform & Financial Reporting
Technology continues to underpin the fintech boom, and Bench is no different. Much of what you get from Bench, besides outsourced bookkeeping and peace of mind, is access to their platform.
So, what is the Bench platform, and what does it offer? Let’s take a look at the features of the Bench platform from the inside.
Here we’ll step through the different parts of the Bench platform and just what you’ll get when you subscribe.
Communicate with your bookkeeping team. With Bench, you’ll have a team of bookkeepers working on your book monthly. You can communicate with your team through the platform’s messaging system.
Connect your financial accounts. This is one of the first steps you’ll complete when you first sign up with Bench. Your team of bookkeepers will need access to your different financial accounts, such as bank accounts, loans, or credit cards, just to name a few. Bench will then pull your financial data from these accounts.
Bookkeeper Status. This will show you what your team of bookkeepers is working on at the moment. You can use this to get an idea of what else you may need to provide your team.
Summary Report. This offers a detailed overview of the revenue, expenses, and profits of your company over a certain time period. Bench offers detailed expense tracking.
Recent Transactions List. This will give you a view of how your money is moving into and out of your business.
Cash Flow Summary. In business, cash is king, and understanding how cash flows in your business are critical to business health. You can see the health of your business here.
Income Statement. Bench offers a detailed income statement for a given period.
Balance Sheet. Bench also offers a detailed balance sheet for you to view, also over a given period.
The Bench platform and its detailed reporting is boon for business owners looking for better visibility into their company’s inner workings.
Bench also guarantees that all of the financial data and reports you receive are, in their words, “quality controlled and peer-reviewed.”
What do you think of when you think of accounting? Well, bookkeeping is more than receipts, bank statements, income statements, and lost sleep.
Every business owner needs to prepare for tax season and mandatory reporting. Bench knows this.
Bench subscribers also receive tax preparation services in addition to a team of bookkeepers, the platform, and detailed financial reports.
Your Bench team will prepare a year-end financial package for you and your business, which includes the following:
- Balance sheet
- Journal entry summary
- Trial balance
- General ledger
- Income statement
However, Bench is no substitute for working with a dedicated Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Your team and the Bench platform can work with your CPA. Don’t have a CPA?
Bench can recommend a qualified CPA from their tax professional network.
Now that you have a birds-eye view of how Bench works, let’s get into what sign up and the first month look like with Bench.
Third-Party Apps, Add-Ons, and Integrations
The Bench platform offers integration with a host of third-party apps, including banks, payment processors, and companies offering payroll and invoicing.
Below is a short list of some of the key integrations. Contact Bench for more information on other third-parties not listed.
Who Bench is Right For?
Bench promises to make bookkeeping-by-hand a thing of the past. The Bench system is built to not only automate and present financial data but to back up bookkeeping with a dedicated team of professionals who can ensure that reconciliations are accurate.
Bench openly targets small- and medium-sized business owners who want to drop the hassle of doing their own books. Bench is currently focused on the North American market, which at the time of writing is both the United States and Canada.
As of the Census Bureau’s 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, 89% of the 5.6 million firms listed in the US had fewer than 20 employees — that’s roughly 5 million businesses.
Add in Canada’s 1 million or so small- to medium-sized businesses, plus independent contractors in both countries, and the market is likely well over 7 million.
More specifically, Bench targets common pain points business owners report when considering their accounting. These include:
- Owners who don’t have the time, energy, or interest in doing bookkeeping
- Owners with limited bookkeeping experience worried about the quality
- Owners who want easy, efficient access to business financials
If one or more of these sound like you, then we recommend you contact Bench for more information or a demo.
Bench is one of the few firms offering comprehensive, outsourced bookkeeping services. What’s better, you can access your Bench data on the go and can communicate with your bookkeeping team as-needed.
So what do you get with a monthly Bench subscription plan?
- Cash accounting (contact Bench if you need accrual accounting)
- Dedicated bookkeeping team who will reconcile your books by the 15th of each month
- Up to 15 accounts (bank accounts, credit cards, loans, merchant processors) tracked
- Access to the Bench platform with real-time and monthly Bench reports
- Option to add ‘Catch Up’ bookkeeping for an extra charge
- Tax seasons support
Bench has scaled its pricing plans recognizing that smaller businesses require less work and have less extra capital to use on outsourcing.
Plans come in a range of sizes, based on a company’s average monthly sales. Users can cancel anytime.
Note: Companies with expenses greater than $1M in monthly expenses can contact Bench for a custom quote.
$139 per month - monthly expenses below $1k
$159 per month - monthly expenses $1k - $7.5k
$199 per month - monthly expenses $7.5k - $20k
$249 per month - monthly expenses below $20k - $60k
$349 per month - monthly expenses up to $1M
Bench offers discounts to businesses that pay for a yearly subscription instead of month-to-month. Discounts range from $20 to $50 off the monthly fee.
Pros and Cons
- Dedicated team of bookkeepers
- Interactive platform that offers visibility into business financials
- Syncs and automatically gathers financial data from many banks and lending platforms
- Unlimited support
- Clean, well-organized reports
- Tax seasons support
- Year-end financial package
- Costs more than DIY accounting
- No mobile app for android users
- Not all integrations supported
- Some users report problems with the platform
- Only retrospective reporting, no prospective budgeting
- Catch up accounting not included in plans, billed at a separate rate
- Reported bookkeeper turnover
How to Get Started
Before jumping in head-first, let us give you an idea of just what you’re getting yourself into with a Bench subscription.
Decide Bench is right for you. If you want to outsource your bookkeeping and are willing to pay for a team and software to help, then Bench may be right.
Choose the pricing plan that fits your business and its monthly expenses.
Gather all of your financial information, including bank account details, loan information, receipts, merchant accounts, credit card accounts.
Contact Bench. Make sure you speak with them about any specific needs, like ‘Catch Up’ accounting or accrual accounting.
Onboard with Bench, synch your financial information, and upload any missing data.
Let your Bench team reconcile your books. Keep in touch as any questions come up.
Your Bench team should finish within 15 days. Review your accounts and look at your real-time and monthly financial data. Pay for any back accounting to catch up.
Bench Accounting is an online subscription service designed for small businesses. One of America's largest bookkeeping services.
Should You Use Bench?
Bench seems to have thought of everything when it comes to outsourced bookkeeping. The marriage of human know-how and technological efficiency makes doing your books a breeze.
Small business owners have a more comprehensive option available rather than using accounting software like QuickBooks.
While the price may be high for some business owners, we feel that the costs justify what you gain when using Bench.
Not only will you have a team that reconciles your accounts, but you’ll have access to experienced bookkeepers who can help you keep your business on track.
More than just the bookkeeping though, Bench offers you a window into your company’s financial health, all with just a few clicks.
No more forgetting to upload a receipt or link an account to your accounting software. Everything is done for and the reports are available when you need them.
Finally, Bench offers you support for the dreaded tax season and a network of tax pros who can connect with your Bench software to help you out.
We here at RetirementInvestments think that Bench is a great buy for anyone looking to get away from the books and back into running their business.
Courtney Bower writes about investing, behavior economics, real estate, and psychology. He served as a US Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine. He is originally from the Midwest.