Gina Slater Parker, CEO of $1 million Hill Slater, in Great Neck, N.Y., appreciates the value of outsourcing her accounting department. Several years ago, she hired the Mastermind Group, a bookkeeping and accounting service in Huntington, N.Y., to take over all the accounting functions for her 17-employee engineering and architectural support firm.

"I wasn't getting the service I needed from my accountant," she says. "No managerial reports, nothing." Since 1984, when she started Hill Slater, Parker had gone through several accountants and bookkeepers. But when she discovered Mastermind, she recognized an opportunity to help her business, and sales climbed 30% the first year.

Similarly, Statistics Collaborative, in Washington, D.C., is a $500,000 consulting firm that turned all accounting functions over to BusinessMatters, in Silver Spring, Md. That business services firm takes care of everything, from paying electric bills to collecting accounts receivable. Statistics Collaborative president Janet Wittes relies on the reports she gets from BusinessMatters. Each month, she receives a 50- to 100-page breakdown of every aspect of Statistics Collaborative's operations. The series of ratios included in that report tracks everything from the productivity of each employee to the profitability of each job.

"One monthly report made clear that I had to fire someone," recalls Wittes. A programmer had a relatively low productivity number. At first, Wittes attributed this to the fact that the programmer was new. After a few months, however, nothing had changed. Another employee, Wittes discovered, was losing money on projects. Further probing revealed that she wasn't redefining her budgets when she incurred unexpected expenses. Sharing the information with the employee led to a complete turnaround.