May 6, 2024

How to Choose the Right Revenue Recognition Method for Your Business


Revenue is a critical metric for any landscaping business, representing the total money generated from the sale of goods or services. It acts as a vital indicator of a company’s financial health and operational success. Understanding and choosing the right revenue recognition method is crucial as it directly impacts the financial insights and decision-making processes of a business.

Shawn and Jess in's ScaleUp Webinar Series Episode 5
Shot from's ScaleUp Webinar Series Episode #5

Watch Episode 5 How to decide the right revenue recognition method for your landscaping business

Understanding Revenue and Its Importance

Revenue is not just about the total sales; it’s an essential gauge for profitability. By comparing revenue to costs, businesses can determine their actual profit, influencing strategies and operations. The importance of accurate revenue recognition cannot be overstated—it ensures real-time visibility into profitability and aids businesses in making informed decisions to enhance operations and financial outcomes.

Also read: Are Your Landscaping Business Revenue, Accounting, Inventory & Purchasing Truly Efficient?

Exploring Different Revenue Recognition Methods

Choosing an appropriate revenue recognition method depends on the nature of the business, the complexity of transactions, and compliance requirements. 

Here’s a breakdown of the most common methods:

Completed Contract Method

This method involves recognizing all revenue and expenses associated with a particular contract only when the project is fully completed.


  • Simple and straightforward, as revenue is recognized at the point of contract completion. This reduces complexity and aligns revenue with the definitive end of a project.
  • Reduces the risk of revenue misstatement since it waits until all uncertainties are resolved at the project's completion, providing clear and certain financial outcomes.


  • Causes revenue recognition delays, distorting financial performance across accounting periods, which is especially problematic for long-term projects.
  • Can lead to significant mismatches between revenue and expenses, as costs  incurred to complete the project are not recognized until the project is fully completed, potentially skewing the financial portrayal of a company during the project duration

Cash Basis Method

Revenue is recognized only when cash is received, regardless of when the actual sale was made.


  • The simplicity of this method comes up, showing how it directly aligns revenue recognition with cash inflows, thereby simplifying the accounting process for smaller businesses or less complex transactions.
  • Immediate recognition of cash flows ensures clarity on the liquidity status of the business, beneficial for immediate financial planning.


  • Does not comply with GAAP, which can limit business opportunities with some stakeholders and investors who require GAAP-compliant financial statements.
  • Poor reflection of ongoing business activities, as revenue is only recognized upon payment, which can delay or distort the financial picture.

Accrual Basis Method

Revenue is recognized when earned, regardless of when payment is received. This method matches revenue with the expenses incurred to generate that revenue during the same period.


  • Recognizes revenue when earned, not when received, allowing for a more accurate match of revenue with related expenses, thereby providing a clearer picture of profitability.
  • Compliant with GAAP, enhancing the credibility and comparability of financial statements, crucial for businesses seeking investment or undergoing audits.


  • More complex to manage, requiring an understanding of more sophisticated accounting principles and potentially more resources dedicated to accounting functions.
  • There's a risk of manipulation in how revenue is recognized, making rigorous oversight necessary to ensure accuracy.

For example, if you consider the %age of completion method of revenue recognition. This method recognizes revenue based on the estimated completion percentage of a project, typically used in long-term projects where services are provided over a period exceeding one year.

This method provides an accurate representation of financial performance as revenue is recognized based on the project's progress, making it ideal for long-term projects.

It also enables timely and progressive revenue recognition, which allows businesses to maintain consistent financial reporting and avoid large fluctuations at project completion.

However, the method can be deemed complex as it requires detailed tracking and estimation of project milestones, leading to potential errors or disagreements in revenue recognition.

Besides, the administrative burden is higher, as seen in examples from industries like construction, where ongoing monitoring and detailed documentation are required.

Choosing the Best Method for Your Business

When selecting a revenue recognition method, consider the following:

- Nature of the Project: Determine whether your projects are short-term or extend over long periods.

- Contract Terms and Conditions: The specifics of your contracts might dictate the most suitable method.

- Business Size and Financial Capacity: Larger businesses might benefit from more detailed methods like accrual basis due to their complexity and scale.

Key Takeaways and Implementation Tips

Understanding the different revenue recognition methods allows businesses to tailor their accounting practices to best fit their operational and financial needs. Here are some tips for implementation:

- Consult with Financial Advisors: Ensure your chosen method aligns with industry standards and GAAP.

- Use Appropriate Tools: Implement software and tools that support your chosen method and provide real-time financial data.

Over to you: Choosing the right revenue recognition method

Choosing the right revenue recognition method is more than a compliance requirement; it’s a strategic business decision that affects financial transparency and operational efficiency. 

By carefully considering their specific circumstances and consulting with financial experts, businesses can select a method that not only complies with accounting standards but also supports their growth and profitability goals.

For more detailed guidance or to discuss the best method for your business, consider reaching out to financial professionals who can provide tailored advice and support.