Are you 100 percent sure that you have the right accountant for your business? Unless you can answer that with a resounding YES, you owe it to your business to do some due diligence!
Owning and operating a small business can be challenging, even at the best of times. The numerous and unrelenting curveballs mean that owners need all the help they can get.
While an obvious source of advice should be the accountant, too many businesses unfortunately end up with tax agents that are too focused on what has already happened to be of any use. They merely process the information necessary to complete a tax return.
If you are looking for help with planning and structuring the growth of your company, then this is definitely NOT the right accountant for your business.
It helps to know the questions you need to ask in order to determine if you have got the right person…
The 5 questions you need to ask your ‘accountant’
The right accountants will crunch the numbers when needed; but they should also be looking forward and assisting you to manage the tax and financial future of your business.
These five questions should help you determine if you have the right accountant in your business – or of you need to be looking further afield:
- Is your accountant planning for the future?
Your accountant should be future-focussed rather than historically focussed. Of course, the tax returns have to be completed but the accountant should be working with you to plan for the future, set goals and budgets, and minimise tax.
- Does your accountant add value to your business?
You should have access to ‘real-time’ data to gain an insight into what’s happening in your business right now. This can help provide accurate and timely management accounts, which can be used to generate realistic forecasts for the future.
Furthermore, your chosen accounting firm should work with you to develop valuable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that enable you to assess your business performance quickly and accurately.
- Have you built a strong working relationship with your accountant?
Your accountant should be closely involved in your business, helping you with the big decisions and providing advice and guidance whenever you need it.
Unless you have built a strong working relationship, the lack of respect and trust will mean decisions will be tougher to make. Without that ability to chat, build rapport, and discuss matters informally, it’s hard to advise with any degree of accuracy.
- Is your accountant your ‘sounding board’ for ideas, concerns, and plans?
In all businesses, there comes a time when one team’s vision needs to be supplemented by someone with an external focus. It could be a friend or family member, but who better to act as a sounding board for new business ideas than your accountant?
These days, accountants have to be far more than simply compliance clerks. They should have a broad range of business expertise, a variety of clients, and the ability to help you make sound business decisions.
- Do you know what your accountant will charge this year?
Having a clear fee policy is essential in any business. Clients need to know exactly where they stand and you should know what your accountancy fees will amount to for this year.
If you answered NO to any of the above questions, perhaps it is time to reconsider whether you have the right accountant for your business. Upgrading is not as difficult as you might think!
A common misconception amongst business owners is that their tax and financial matters are so complicated that it would be hard for another accountant to take over their affairs. Nothing could be further than the truth.
When taking on a new client, an accountant receives the most recent tax returns and financial statements prepared by the previous accountant.
After reviewing the tax returns and the financial statements, and asking questions about matters that may be unique or peculiar to the business, the new accountant should know enough about the business to look after it and the business owners. You also can’t underestimate the value in a fresh pair of eyes.
How to change accountants
The first step in changing accountants is to find a new one who will provide the level of service and advice you require.
You need to ensure that your accountant speaks the same language as you (yes, that is possible!) Once you have selected a new accountant, you should contact your old accountant and advise them that you are leaving.
Your new accountant is required to write an ethical clearance letter to the old accountant. This advises them that they have been requested to take over your work, and ask if there is any ethical or professional reason why they shouldn't do so.
In this letter, they will also request that all information and documents relating to your business is forwarded to them.
That’s pretty much it. Changing accountants really is relatively painless and the first step in the process is to look for a new one.
If you feel that you don’t have the right accountant for your business, and it’s time for a change, why not book an obligation-free appointment with MBC here to see if we can better match the service that you and your business needs.