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7 things an accountant wants from their client

There was some great feedback on my Top 10 things SMEs want from their accountant post and in particular, demand for the other side of the equation – the key things an accountant wants from a small business client.

Everyone wants their business to sing and to do that you need a great relationship with your accountant. Ideally your accountant needs to work with a small business that has efficient systems and processes, well trained and capable staff, but the accountant also needs you to work effectively too. This supercharges the relationship and empowers both sides. So how do you stack up?

1. Understand how to use your software

On the face of it, Xero is easy to use and feels nice and light. But invest some time and you’ll find a lot more power under the hood. Do the free webinars and find out what else it offers your business. And when in doubt, ask. Remember if the transactions are dealt with correctly the first time, the value this information provides is so much better.

2. Be aspirational and want to grow your business

Your accountant can only help you improve your business if you’re prepared to make changes. Some changes may be small, but others will be big. In reality you’ll need to work harder to grow your business. So make sure you have the right mindset.

3. Have an open mind and listen to advice

Some of the things your accountant may suggest to you might seem perplexing or unusual. If you’re not sure of what the impact might be, then ask. Try to tie everything back to cashflow, because that is easy to comprehend and report on. You don’t have to take the advice given, but take the time to understand. You’re the CEO, your accountant is like your CFO. It’s their job to challenge you and prove their thinking via the numbers. A good CFO/CEO debate is really healthy for your business.

4. Be responsive

Have an action list of things you’re working on together and try to have them done before the next meeting. Time management is key. Improving your business will require time, so allocate slots of time for to doing the work. Your accountant knows you are busy and they are there to help, but you have to do your bit too. Be responsive to requests for information and communicate well. Don’t be shy to pick up the phone. Time is money, the more time an accountant spends chasing you for stuff, the more it will cost you. And finally, treat your accountant’s staff with respect. If there are issues that arise, escalate these to the partner of the firm.

5. Have a strategy,  a plan and a budget

Involve your accountant in strategy and planning. You can build a fantastic plan and financial template for your business in about two to three hours.  But the more time you spend thinking strategically, the more clarity you’ll have around what it is you need in order to become more successful.  Your strategic plan will deliver milestones, goals and KPIs that can be presented at board meetings.

6. Have board meetings and management reports

These are not just for big business. You need to report regularly, preferably monthly or at a minimum, quarterly. The report should show you how you’re tracking as per your plan. One to two hours a month on this stuff is seriously important because it gets you out of the weeds, builds discipline, and focuses the business on what’s critical. If you want to sell your business one day, having good monthly accounts, board meetings, minutes and action items is very helpful in the due diligence phase. You’ll also have fun doing it.

7.  Know your goals – financial and non-financial

You need to know why the heck you are doing all this. Owning your own business is hard work. It’s risky and thankless. You need to be very clear on what you are driving toward. Your business is an asset that will grow in value if you focus on creating value. Talk to your accountant, tell them what you want out of life and then you and your accountant can work together to make your dreams a reality.

We’d love to hear what business owners and accountants think of this list – after all it’s your relationship we’re talking about.

 

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9 comments

Robin Jennings
3 October 2011 #

Every small business needs to do a quarterly wrap up and review of how they’re performing.

That’s one benefit of doing your BAS quarterly. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of things that stepping back and taking stock of your situation is often over looked.

Walter Burns
3 October 2011 #

My biggest problem with accountants is they assume that I understand their jargon, that I understand the technicalities of double entry, that I know how to read and interpret spreadsheets and financial reports.

I’ve never met an accountant who uses plain English, who walks me thru my options and breaks things down into simple terms. I know accounting can be complicated, that’s why I need someone to help me understand my options in a way I can understand.

For every business, a big part of the job is educating your customers.

Why don’t accountants seem to understand or care about that?

Hamish Edwards
3 October 2011 #

Walter, very good point and it is something that many more Accountants are focusing on. At the end of the day the CFO and the CEO need to understand each other.

Chris
4 October 2011 #

Walter, you’re absolutely right. Just as business owners get caught up in day-to-day operations, us accountants do the same thing, and the work becomes routine. It’s important to keep at the top of our mind that all the information in the world is useless if it’s not being communicated in an understandable way.

Robert Craven
5 October 2011 #

I think you’ve forgotten to see this from the customer’s point of view.

See http://realbusiness.co.uk/news/what_entrepreneurs_want_from_their_accountants

or

http://robert-craven.blogspot.com/2011/03/accountants-and-professional-service.html

to get a glimpse of the world form the ‘other side’.

RC

Robert

Hamish Edwards
6 October 2011 #

Hey Robert, we certainly do think from the customers point of view. Here is an early blog on that exact topic. Let me know if we are missing anything. blog.xero.com/2011/09/top-10-things-smes-want-from-their-accountant

Gayle Buchanan
12 October 2011 #

Hi Hamish, another great post, thank you. The more time I spend listening to business owners and allowing them to ‘download’ the more we understand each other. I used to try and fix everything quickly for them (mum in me!), now I listen and we discuss as much as possible and take the journey together – find what’s working and do more of it. Of course once they download and we scribble all over the reports together changing the jargon names to what works for them – its all good!

Robert Craven
29 October 2011 #

OK – I have seen the other blog post now and I stand corrected.
RC

Boutique Financial
4 November 2011 #

Many people talk about staff development or business development but I’m not sure if people talk about customer development. It’s common to educted customers about the products and services and their benefits, but a great accountant should be aiming for wider customer development, including all of the 7 ideas Hamish is talking about.

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