17. Getting the most from your accountant – The Sequel

In our article ‘Getting the most from your accountant’ we touched on 5 ways that, as a business owner, you could improve the relationship with your accountant. The ultimate goal being to see your accountant as an investment in the growth and development of your business.

As part of our ongoing commitment to building valuable, long term relationships with our partners, we proactively sought feedback on the article from influential figures within the profession.

The result of that feedback is this follow up piece. The view from the inside, if you will.

We’re only human

Accountants may be many things to many people, but as Matt Lee, Managing Partner at Bishop Fleming tells us ‘accountants are only human’. Building rapport with your accountant therefore is critical to ensuring that you and your business fully benefit from the relationship.

The strength of the relationship between the client and accountant was a common theme in the feedback we garnered. Chris Nisbet of The Fish Partnership is keen to stress that ‘the stronger the relationship, the better the understanding of the business, and the better the understanding of the business, the better the advice’.

Advice, of course, is what many business owners expect from their accountant, but all too often accountants are presented with information too late to be able to add the most, or indeed any, value.

One criticism that Stuart Dey, Business Development Director at Shipleys LLP often hears from potential clients, is that ‘accountants don’t give proactive advice.’ Stuart tells us that it is sometimes difficult for accountants to do this if ‘clients don’t tell their accountant what’s happening……’ Some business owners regard having their accounts done ‘as a bit like buying road tax for their car; a cost driven regulatory obligation.’

This mindset makes it difficult for accountants to proactively add value to a business owner, but Stuart does concede that some accountants ‘don’t take the initiative and instigate a quarterly coffee, claiming the client won’t want to pay’.

Value is something that all business owners are keen to extract from those they deal with, and it is important to differentiate between cost and value. Matt Lee points out that clients who look to drive down cost at any opportunity are likely to receive ‘a second rate service’ from their accountant.

Alex Peal, Partner at James Cowper agrees; ‘if a client constantly states that they will not pay for anything extra it can mean that it is hard to be proactive in suggesting ideas’. These ideas could of course be the critical added value your business needs.

It’s good to talk (to an accountant regularly)

Richard Frett, Partner at Chantrey Vellacott DFK suggests that arranging ‘regular update meetings to talk through what’s happening within the business’ is one way to get the most value from your accountant. This, along with ‘explaining to your accountant what you are trying to achieve’ will allow your accountant to provide the appropriate advice, at the right time.

Often, the advice piece centres around tax planning; something that, if neglected, can be costly to you as a business owner. Richard tells us that ‘every transaction, large or small, has a tax consequence’, and it is therefore critical that your accountant is aware of your ‘tax planning risk profile’, in order that they can advise accordingly.

‘To truly add value an accountant must have full knowledge of a business’ (and business owner’s) drivers and aspirations’, says Jon Maile, Director, Assurance at Grant Thornton. ‘Only then can they advise on an approach and structure which will meet the relevant aspirations’.

Jon advises that business owners should consider their accountant as ‘a third party who has probably seen it before, and knows what has, and hasn’t worked in the past.’ Use them as ‘a critical friend’.

What should be clear from the feedback above is that there are no secrets to getting the most from your accountant. It really is all about meeting regularly, building rapport and proactively asking for advice.

Significant value can only be achieved by building a strong relationship; and of course, remembering that accountants are only human!

To find out how to extract maximum value from your accountant, or if you would like to discuss any of the topics covered above, please contact us through the Tectona Website or call Mark Nicholls on 07818 407061.

Posted in FD Role, Tectona Ten - Managing the Day to Day.

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