This is the first article in our series helping you find an accountant.
Are you happy with your accountancy services?
In other words, is your accountant indispensible for your business? Does he understand and proactively support you in reaching your business goals? Or does he just deliver your accounts at year-end for you to sign off?
These questions in a nutshell show you what a proactive accountant should do for you. Anything else and you should start thinking about changing accountants.
Of course, it goes without saying that you wouldn’t change your accountant simply on a whim, just as you shouldn’t stay with your old accountant out of misplaced loyalty. The requirements of your business come first.
Before addressing the four most important reasons why you should change accountant, let me dispel a very popular myth:
No, changing accountants does not put you at risk of investigation by the Inland Revenue. There is no problem and no danger of investigation just because you decided to change accountants.
Here are the four most important reasons why you may want to change accountants for your business to succeed.
The first two reasons are self-explanatory:
1. Your accountant has dumped you or gone out of business
If your accountants closed their practice or decided that your business did not fit their client profile any longer, you have no choice but to move on and find a new accountant. In the latter case, a change is definitely preferred to staying put. Would you want your business to be serviced by a firm who does not want you as a client?
Even if reason no. 1 applies to you, read on as everything we spell out here will also help you find the right accountant for the future.
2. The price isn’t right
This does not necessarily mean that the price you are paying for accountancy services is high or low but whether you receive value for your money.
It is a multifaceted issue that includes not only the amount you pay but also the level of service you receive.
Are your accountancy fees transparent? Do you know what your annual bill will be? Or do you keep receiving nasty surprises in the form of additional charges, for instance, for telephone calls, emails and other types of communication?
The answer here may be that you overlooked the small print. If this is the case, try to renegotiate your contract. Should this not be possible, look for a new accountant.
Cost savings are another aspect of this question: Has your accountant implemented time saving procedures but not passed on any of the benefits to you?
Is your accountant on top of the game? Or does he (or she) make mistakes that can prove costly for your business? Do they miss deadlines, which means that you have to pay penalties? Do they keep up with changes in VAT, PAYE, pension benefit and other legislation?
If they are always late or squeeze you in at the last minute; if they communicate in incomprehensible jargon; if you always have to deal with someone else in the firm, then you are certainly not receiving value for your money. In which case it is time to move on.
3. Your accountant never talks to you
Whatever the size and type of a business, communication is fundamental to its success. Without communication there can’t be any relationship, and without a relationship, there can’t be trust.
If there is no relationship how can you trust that your accountant will do the right thing by your business, that is, help you grow your business, reduce your costs, generate more profit and reduce your tax bills?
How does your accountant fit this picture?
Is the only communication you ever receive the year-end invoice? How much does this help your business grow?
Do you ever meet with your accountant face-to-face? Or is he always busy with his larger clients? How quickly does he return your calls? Does he ever take the initiative and call to discuss your business?
These are fundamental questions that are all too often not addressed, very much to the detriment of the businesses. The right communication also shows you that your accountant understands your industry and your business. This will allow him to challenge you, ask questions and point out potential problems that could be expensive to fix if they are addressed too late or, even worse, not at all.
Take a long, hard look at your relationship with your accountants. Do they fall short on any of the fundamentals listed here? If so then it is time to move on and find someone who takes an interest in and understands the fundamentals of your business.
4. Can your accountant advise you?
Management cannot work effectively without full financial information, and financial advice cannot be effective without understanding your industry and your business.
Effective accountants also act as business advisors. As an aside, this also means that the jargon they use should be your industry’s jargon and not be limited to highly technical accountancy language.
Are your accountants able to map out where you could take you business? Are they competent to advise and evaluate alternatives that make sense for your business? Can you use them as a sounding board for your business development ideas?
In plain language, in the current economic climate can your business afford an accountant who is not up to these standards?
Of course, there are also other reasons that should be used to qualify accountants as suitable for your business.
Would you be able to get on with them?
Are they local to your business? Do you need them to be local?
Do they have appropriate professional qualifications?
Do they have business experience outside their accountancy practice?
In further articles, we shall present other important aspects that shape your search when you are looking to find an accountant.
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