Get the best from your Accountant

Written by: Alan Rodway - Your Coach Online

Too many businesses make ineffective use of their accountants. Here are twelve ways to do so:

Both parties need to be clear about what their expectations are of each other.

Businesses too often don’t question what they want fromtheir advisor and therefore don’t get the value or services that are available. They have expectations but these are not expressed openly at the start which would provide a much better grounding for the ongoing relationship. Most ineffectiveness between business and accountant could be avoided by simply asking ‘What do we want from each other?’ at the outset and, even better, putting that in writing. Accountants are just as guilty because they are not clear enough with businesses about what’s expected from them. Simple things like providing all documents on time, following advice given and responding in a timely manner to questions makes a significant difference. Telling your accountant in advance of what you plan to do over the next year or so can also help them to be proactive in their advice as well as helping the business to avoid making errors, e.g. how to finance a purchase or what structure to use for a new venture.

Too many businesses use their accountant for little more than tax returns

..and have no idea what other services are on offer. We only find out after they have say, obtained finance, purchased a property or gone into another business that we could have helped them directly or put them onto someone in our network who could have helped them. Even things like setting up a DIY Super fund, finding a financial planner or helping them grow their business, are all other services most accountants can provide.

Most accounting firms, particularly those with a reasonable size business base, have a strong network of professional contacts

…for their clients to tap into … lawyers, property consultants, insurers. Everyone is ‘safer’ to use a provider that is recommended than sourcing one that is unknown.

Meeting more regularly

…is something most businesses need to do with their accountant. With so much access today to live data, such as on Xero and MYOB Live, current data can be easily accessed and tapped into for relevant and current advice. Problems can be detected earlier and positive trends can be capitalised on ahead of your competitors. Accountants love this sort of work as they can get quick, exciting results with their clients and feel they are being of real value to people who want to work with them. Being on top of figures helps business owners make better decisions and keeps the business in good shape, either to continue with or to sell at a top price.

Many businesses worry far too much about fees .

To focus only on fees rather than the services provided will limit the effectiveness of the relationship. Some accountants now offer fixed fee services and businesses enjoy the surety of that. It takes fees off the table and helps to grow a better working relationship. Any business can benefit from a fixed fee service and it helps greatly with the ‘clear expectations’ mentioned earlier, as these need to be discussed so both the business and the accountant know what is required and what that will cost.

Ask for referees from their existing business base and listen closely to their comments .

The overall relationship between accountant and business is crucial to success. Find someone you are comfortable with and who you feel is not only interested in your business but can offer the services require.

The working relationship with your accountant is not about agreeing with everything you want or believe .

Often you need to be challenged by your accountant to get the best out of you and your business. Most accountants have experience across a broad range of businesses and their experience will not be the same as yours, but can at least lead to healthy discussions about what is right for your business.

If you pay for advice, then take it.

This sounds really simple, but so many businesses would rather listen to someone they met at a dinner party or BBQ than their own accountant. People who give you free advice should not. Everyone’s circumstances are different and the right advice for one business can often be the wrong advice for another. If you don’t like the advice you get it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, so explore it with your accountant until you’re sure you’re on the right path.

Read the instructions you get from your accountant and follow them

Another simple one – It’s amazing how often clients don’t read what accountants tell them to do or ignore them and go off and do something completely different. This can be quite dangerous.

Get deeper into your numbers .

A profit statement from 12 months ago used to do a tax return is of little or no use in terms of analysing how your business is going today. Live data should be used, at least monthly. The type of analysis done should in depth. Every business should know exactly how many customers they have, what their average selling price is, where they make most of their profits and what their main KPI’s are (and measure them). All of this analysis, for decision making, should include the input of your accountant..

Every business should have a board of advisors and your accountant should be on that board .

Keeping up to date with what’s happening in the business world and how it can help your business is necessary, and there are often people in your own network who would love to help you succeed. Don’t be reluctant to ask for their help. Having a board also makes you more accountable which is something most small businesses fail to do. They only report to themselves so it doesn’t matter if they don’t do what they are supposed to.

Discuss what you want from your business with your accountant and how the business can provide you with the lifestyle you want .

You need to run your business, not have your business run you. A good accountant should be able to help you achieve this by running your business at its best and making sure you get maximum value for the business when you sell. Small businesses are very hard to sell so the more work you put into it the easier it will be to sell later on.

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