The First 90 Days in Accounting at a Startup: 8 Ways to Succeed in a New Role

The first 90 days in any new position are vital, especially in a startup environment. Learn the 8 key strategies needed to thrive, excel and succeed in a new accounting role.
The First 90 Days in Accounting at a Startup: 8 Ways to Succeed in a New Role

The first 90 days in any new job are crucial. As most positions require a 3 month probation period, your future at the company undoubtedly depends on what you do during this decisive time period. In fact, studies show that 20% of employee turnover occurs in the first 90 days of employment.

Most startups are generally fast-paced, especially throughout the month-end close process. While employers tend to look for certain milestones in your first three months that may indicate future success, there are other critical aspects that influence your 90 day period. 

We’ve compiled 8 key strategies on how you can succeed in your new accounting role and smoothly transition to thrive. 

1. Get To Grips With Your Software

Picking up the technology used at your startup quickly is key. Make sure you understand the different tools and SaaS used by the finance team, as these define how they work on a daily basis and how the overall business operations run. 

Understand each software: what it does exactly, how you will use it and what you can get out of it. Get up to speed with where the accounts are located and know how they are all intertwined. 

As soon as you’ve mastered all the different platforms and know the ins and outs of each software, you’ll have the firms’ finances at the back of your hand. Everything will start to become apparent which in turn will enable a better overview of the accounting operations. 

Bonus point: Identify the frameworks and software used in other departments in the company as well, e.g. sales, marketing, engineering - as this will also help expand your knowledge in the overall business operations (especially when it comes to scalability) which is another key factor in succeeding. And by default you will interact more with your peers, who will notice that you are interested in their world as well. 

2. Nail Down the Month-End Process

Once you have familiarized yourself with all the accounting software used, it’s time to get up to speed with the month-end process, as most likely this will be your busiest and stressful period.

Master the month-end close processes from beginning to end by getting up to speed ASAP so there are no balls dropped. Plan and prioritize your time thoroughly to avoid being buried with a stack of books, but at the same time, be prepared to go off track as things constantly change and evolve in a startup atmosphere. 

Be conscious of tight deadlines, different phases, departments, countries and steps involved when closing. Learn to prioritize, be prepared to chase invoices and juggle multiple tasks simultaneously in order to secure closing successfully and on time. 

3. Evaluate Procedures

During your first 90 days in accounting, speak with your finance team to understand what’s working well and what is frustrating within the accounting operations. For example, can you get ahead of certain aspects working well today, but are likely to break within 6-12 months?

how to succeed in accounting

It’s also a good idea to get to know your colleagues, in particular to those in management, and ask them similar questions to fully comprehend business processes, operations and company culture.

Remember to keep business going as usual and avoid creating delays. While there is time for change and impact at a growing startup, you’ve still got to keep things rolling in the meantime. Be prepared for any bumps in the road and come up with innovative ways in overcoming any roadblocks. 

4. Understand the Forecast 

Once you know where the business is going, the company’s goals and their mission, start figuring out how to expand finance operations to support the business on a wider scale. In order to bridge the gap between where the company is now and where it wants to be, you need to forecast. 

Get a rough estimate of where the business plans to be in 2 years’ time. Learn the rhythm of the company and where it’s heading to. Keep in mind that startups tend to expand at a rapid pace, especially at seed and series A-stages.

5. Come Up With Your Plan

Come up with a solid plan of action to implement your learnings and discuss it with your colleagues. For example:

  • Have you seen things at previous companies you’ve worked at that could help them?
  • Are there any gaps in the tooling? 
  • Have you identified challenges during onboarding?

Your ability to lend a fresh set of eyes to help improve accounting operations is of great value to your new company. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have even in your first weeks and don’t be afraid to take initiative. Show your team that you are a self-starter that is keen to hit the ground running.

6. Network and Make Connections

Recent research shows that those who get up to speed and excel most quickly in a new role are those who know how to network effectively.

how to do well in accounting

In essence, just being good at your job alone is not enough to succeed, you need to build relationships in-house.

The strategies that follow are “fast-mover” practices that include making new connections early on, identifying those who can help you fill skill gaps, and using this newly formed network to expand your impact, which collectively leads you to thrive in your first 90 days in finance. 

7. Highlight Your Wins

Within your first 90 days working in accounting at a startup, there’s nothing wrong with highlighting your accomplishments. Here are some examples of some easy wins that help you gain visibility and sponsorship as you get your sea legs:

  • Spot inconsistencies in accounts
  • Take the workload off more senior members of your team
  • Simplify formulas and make sheets more presentable 
  • Create an internal calendar to manage deadlines
  • Set up new process improvement 

Demonstrate your skills and show your peers how you can help the team excel, Remember the 90-day period is make-or-break, so be proactive and don’t be shy to highlight your value. 

8. Always Ask Questions 

When in doubt, ask questions and never make assumptions. One small mistake in finance can lead to severe consequences and even a loss of funds for your startup. Remember, especially at startups, everyone is learning around you as well. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! 

Asking questions not only means you’ll succeed in your accounting role, but it also demonstrates your overall engagement, willingness to learn and a can-do attitude. In a startup it’s not just about doing your job, it’s about going the extra mile to strive and grow with the company. 

As communication is key, get to know who to ask, when to ask and how to ask in order to get all the facts straight. And always double check when unsure, e.g. any company changes, promotions, new software to acquire, etc. 

At the end of every fiscal-year, accounts need to be correct and in order. Lack of communication on your part will certainly result in poor performance. 

So there you have it! 8 ways on how to excel in your new job. We hope the pointers above will help you thrive, succeed and excel in your first 90 days in your new accounting role!


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Jenny Liu
Head of Finance @ Marshmallow

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