One of the biggest complaints business owners have about their accountants is that they don’t hear from them as often as they would like. For a Certified Public Accountant, like me, this is an opportunity. But, unfortunately, many of my colleagues don’t realize this – we’re just very busy! But if we did, we’d welcome the chance to forge closer relationships with our clients. So maybe you can help us? Just by doing these five things you can help make your outside CPA a true business partner – and improve your business in the process.
1 – Give Full Access to Your Data
You can’t fully expect your CPA to be a true partner unless you’re willing to share your company’s data with her. I mean all of it: compensation, margins, vendors, customers, etc. The best approach is an accounting system on a cloud-based platform that can easily be accessed by your CPA. That way she can quickly get to the information she needs not only to monitor how your business is doing but to also be fully prepared for any scheduled meetings.
2 – Meet Quarterly
Speaking of meetings my advice is to…well…meet. Frequently. At least quarterly. You can always do this by phone but, like any professional relationship, face-to-face is always better. Have an agenda. Make sure you’re going over your most recently quarterly and year to date financial statements (they don’t have to be formal). Make a cash flow forecast together. Ask your CPA for her insights. Ask her to compare what her other clients are doing. Ask her if your numbers, ratios and metrics are consistent with similar companies in your industry. Ask her what tax and financial moves you should be making now, rather than waiting for the last minute. Business owners and managers who put off meeting with their CPAs until tax season are missing out on a whole lot of great advice throughout the year.
3 – Do What She Tells You To Do
A complaint I hear from my accounting colleagues is that their clients don’t always listen to their advice. When your accountant tells you to make an estimated tax payment then do it – and also do it for the right amount. When your accountant requests information from you then provide it fast. When your accountant wants to speak, then speak. If she recommends a new way of doing things then do that too – it’s usually because she’s seen that process work well somewhere else. Don’t fight your accountant. She’s your partner. She’s the one that’s coming into your business with a different perspective and a new set of eyes. That perspective can be of great value if you listen.
4 – Understand Her Limitations
There is no such thing as the CPA who can do it all, just like there’s no such thing as a doctor or lawyer who can do it all. The world is full of specialists and the accounting profession is no different. Hopefully, your CPA is being honest with you regarding her limitations and her expertise. If she’s not great with audits, or personal financial planning, or calculating the Research and Development Tax Credit (and she’s probably not great at all of these things) be upfront and work with her to find someone who is truly an expert at these things. Employ her to do what she does best and then work with her to find other experts to do the other things – if she’s confident and truly interested in your well-being this should not be a problem. This is what partners do for each other.
5 – Pay Her Well
You know what I’ve learned after being in business for more than twenty years? People – particularly people providing services – enjoy working with clients that pay them well. Duh. It’s human nature and accountants are no different. When your accountant quotes a fee for services don’t try to knock her down a few dollars. When your accountant sends you an invoice don’t make her wait two months for you to pay. If you’re asking your accountant for help that’s clearly outside of your current arrangement don’t assume that she’ll happily do it for free. Compensate your accountant like a true partner. Make her happy that you’re her client. She’s not going to take advantage of you. Instead she’ll be that much more motivated to work with you – and if you take advantage of that you’ll make more money for yourself over the long term.
The bottom line: if you’re the owner of a small business, please don’t get frustrated with your accountant. Instead, take action to make her more of a partner. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the response – and the results.
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