Many small business owners think that they have a ‘good accountant'; someone that does the work they are asked to do, in the time that they are asked to do it, at a reasonable rate…
This isn’t the definition of good! It’s the definition of mediocre at best!
A great accountant will not just do the work that you ask them to do; a great accountant will go above and beyond that. For example, instead of just processing your financial statements, a great accountant will give you proactive advice on how to grow your business, or cutting back in specific areas which are costing you more money than necessary, and even help you determine your ROI.
A great accountant will offer you advice on tax savings and business growth, even when you do not ask for it. The great accountant will take the initiative and help you wherever he/she can.
In short, a great accountant will add value to your business, be it through saving you time and money, or making your business more profitable, giving you the freedom to do what you do best. They look at where you are, where you want to go and then help you get there in the most efficient manner considering both tax and practicality.
So having said all that, what traits should you look for in a Great Accountant here’s my cheat sheet of what to look for:
- Firstly do they know their stuff at the high conceptual level as well as the lower level detail? Getting excited with you about your vision and helping turn that into a tangible plan that you can move forward with? Do they have the tools that help turn what’s in your head into a roadmap for your future?
- Do they know how to grow their own business? If they don’t, then what credibility do they have in helping you grow yours? Great accountants can prove they know how to do it themselves. Business is about growth. It’s about change. It’s about being brave. Sometimes it’s about turning things on their head. Does your Accountant demonstrate they can do it themselves? It’s a fair question and a damn good indicator of whether they can help you.
- They’re accountants, they must have financial mastery. They must be able to grab a balance sheet or a P&L and read it like a score card. The great ones can take a look at the numbers and within seconds put their finger on the core health of the business. The most critical part of financial mastery is cash. Understanding what will happen to it and how it should be used is as important as knowing where it’s gone already. The great ones work with cash not with concepts.
- What’s a business model? If the accountant doesn’t know the answer then grab your coat and get the hell out of there. Great accountant know that getting your business model right will often be your competitive edge. If you’re starting your business from scratch then getting this right at the beginning will make a massive difference to your outcomes. Adjusting and tunning the current business model may also be needed from time to time.
- Could you spend a day with them? Sadly the common cartoon character of an accountant is of some conservative middle-aged bloke who would bore the pants off you. However the best are not considered conservative or boring. Life’s too short to work with people you don’t get along with. They need to be able to tell it how it is and yet always drop down on the side of optimism and exploration. They need to encourage at all times, be the cheerleader from the sidelines, and be your financial mentor. Then there are other times when life throws up a curved ball and the proverbial hits the fan and they can be your trusted confidant and shoulder to lean on.
- Your best asset is your team. Does your accountant understand that? If so can they help? Building an awesome kick arse team focused on the same objective is powerful beyond belief. Are they as comfortable with people as they are with numbers? Your Accountant needs to be a people person and to know how to get the best from those you have in your squad. Do they speak your language?
- Can they help you build revenue while protecting you and your assets? A great accountant can help you to grow your business by identifying opportunities and show you how to guard your business against threats.
- Are they honest and easy to do business with? Do they price their services up-front so you don’t get a nasty surprise? Do they allow you to pay monthly to ease the burden on your precious cash? Do they have people dedicated to helping you grow and develop your business throughout the year? Are they accessible?
- Do they have an excellent handle on the tax and other legislative requirements? These are constantly changing and can catch out the unwary. A great accountant should create the simplest and most effective tax structure that meets the needs of the owners and whether profits or losses are in the organization’s future.
- Do they use up to date technology to get the job done? The world’s best accountants are shifting the expectations of their customers by embracing the power of the cloud. If you’re not on it you are being left behind. Utilising technology to save time and money, will give you the freedom to do what you do best.
Is this what you have with your accountant?