Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Accountant
Getting the Most Out of Your Accountant
How to make sure that you’re getting the best value from your Accountant
Tip No. 1 – Recognise your strengths and limitations
How many small business owners repair their own photocopier? Whilst it may be a relatively mechanical task that may be carried out with the use of a manual, why do so few businesses do it? The answer is generally that they recognise that somebody else can do it more efficiently, reliably and cost-effectively.
However, many already over-worked business owners get out the textbooks or surf the ‘net’ and try to develop professional expertise in business law, tax planning, contracts and a host of other highly specialised areas. There is nothing wrong with trying to solve problems yourself if it is cost-effective to do so.
A business owner does need to be an expert on the fundamentals of their business, and have a working knowledge of other areas that are important for the day-to-day operation of their business. They don’t have to be an expert in every aspect of their business.
Proper external advice may cost you less than you think.
Tip No. 2 - Understand the issues
Before consulting accountants or other professionals it is worthwhile trying to get an overview of their expertise, what’s involved and how it might be able to help your business. An overview before the meeting will help you to set realistic goals and expectations for their involvement. It will also help you to ask relevant and intelligent questions and understand and act upon the advice given. A little preparation will help to maximise the benefit of the time you spend together.
Tip No. 3 - Take advantage of free consultations
Many accountants offer free consultations at one time or another. Take advantage of them. You can usually get more out of these free consultations if, before the meeting, you give some thought to a specific issue. Consider sending a summary of your business situation; setting out some of the issues you feel that you need assistance. In this way they will have had enough time and background information to give the issue some serious thought and the ‘free consultation’ will actually result in advice being provided. It will also help you to figure out if the accountant really understands the issues affecting your business.
Tip No. 4 - Make their job easier
Accountants essentially sell time. The less you use, the less it costs. The key to using less of their time is to organise yourself so that you make their job as easy as possible.
That means preparing for meetings. Think through in advance what you want to ask, discuss and achieve. Have a list of discussion points ready when you meet. Ask them beforehand what information they are going to need, and make sure it is ready for them in advance.
Keep your business affairs as organised as possible. Seek input about how you can improve your ‘housekeeping’ to make their task easier. If you do all that they suggest you are in a far stronger position to negotiate a lower fee. Accountants generally charge well-organised clients less than disorganised ones.
Tip No. 5 - Ask early and don't take short-cuts
Generally speaking, it’s simpler and less costly to prevent a problem than it is to solve one. Business owners in the spirit of exercising their entrepreneurship often act and enter into arrangements without considering the implications of their actions. A short telephone call or meeting with your accountant may cost a little, but may be trivial in relation to the costs of solving a problem or even missing an opportunity.