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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3 October 2011 #
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