In my experience as an accountant and entrepreneur, I have seen many different types of business owners. Among the ones I helped directly, I must admit that while some of them made the most out of our relationship, others did not really understand how to work well with accountants.
As any other member of your team, the more you cooperate, the more their work will be beneficial to you and to your entrepreneurial pursuits (including saving time, money and growing faster). But what should be done differently and how it should be done might not be clear to everybody.
This is why I want to share a few ideas on what I think makes the relationship between accountant and business owner successful. There are five simple, often overlooked commonsense principles which can enormously benefit any new or established business.
If there was only one rule to follow when you are working with an accountant, I would say that is maintaining good communications. Accountants are not external providers of services, but rather members of your team.
Share all the information needed for them to give you the best advice. Do your numbers not match your ambitions? No reason to be ashamed. Your accountant is there to help you make that happen as soon as possible. When in doubt, communicate! Your business will be more efficient as a result.
We naturally tend not to be the best analysts of our own businesses. When I started my accounting firm in London I was struggling with many difficulties because my experience in business was minimal. Seeking advice turned out to be a great strategy. Joining the Chamber of Commerce and other local organizations made all the difference because I could talk to other people who had achieved what I wanted to achieve. Not only did they give me practical advice, but they gave me the confidence I could make things happen.
As accountants we are here not only to deal with the paperwork, but also to offer our insights and help you identify your business strengths and weaknesses. I encourage you to take advice from your accountant and from anybody else involved in your company. You can’t do it alone.
Not all advice is good of course, so we should use our own judgment in the end. When somebody gives you advice, ask yourself: does this person really know about this topic? Do they practice what they preach? Are they genuinely trying to help? Is there anybody else who I trust more? A second and third opinion will help you clear your mind.
However, I think an intermediate level of trust is not very beneficial for anybody: so take your time to evaluate the relationship and either move it to higher level or start looking for a new, more productive one.
Running a business can be very time consuming, and we sometimes forget things because we are so focused on the “core” of what we do. When working with an accountant, though, there is a really important thing you should remember: deadlines.
For instance, if a company is under Construction Industry Scheme (CIS), a return must be sent to HMRC every month. In order to fulfil this obligation on time your accountant should have accurate information about all the payments made to subcontractors. There are automatic penalties for late CIS returns starting from £100 fixed penalty after one day delay. In order to save money and make your accountant’s work easier, send all the invoices and bank statements in time and make sure to respect all the deadlines you agreed upon.
Did you know that your accountant can be a source of new business? Some of our clients have been able to leverage our connections when looking for new business partners and clients. This is true especially for B2B. You should try to explore all the networks you have access to, and getting introductions from your accountant might end up being a very powerful marketing strategy.
Keep a communicative approach and be open about what you like and do not like about your accountant’s services. Sincerity will be mutually beneficial, as it will make your work relationship better and better. Constructive criticism and honest feedback will accelerate your business growth: that’s the way to really make the most out of your accountant!
Is there anything else you would suggest to people working with accountants? I’m looking forward to reading about your experience.