If you run a business, you’re probably spending a lot of money on an accountant every month. But, as with anything in life, it is not the actual price of something that determines value, but rather, what we get for that price. If what we receive adds value, we’re generally happy to spend the money.
So, how do you make sure that you get the best value out of your accountants? The main tactic that people use is deadlines and threats:
“I want my management reports completed by the 7th of each month. If you can’t do that, I will find another accountant.”
“Why was my VAT not paid on time? You must cover the penalty. I’m not paying your bill because of this.”
However, sometimes the reason the management reports are not completed by the 7th of the month is that the queries that were sent ahead of the deadline weren’t responded to or the accountant received a response past the deadline.
And the VAT that wasn’t paid on time is because when the payment request was sent, the client was not available to assist.
So, how do you remove the expectation gap between clients and accountants and make sure that we get the most “bang for buck”:
1) Get more involved
Your accountant is there to help and guide you – not do it for you.
There is nothing more fundamental than understanding your financial position. Every idea or plan you have will need money and you need to have money to make it happen, so it is important that you are well aware of what is happening in your business
If you don’t have access to your accounting or haven’t looked at your accounting software recently – I’d suggest you stop reading this right now and get access or view it
If you don’t understand what you are looking at, ask your accountant to explain to you what things mean, how things are calculated and how to look at your reports.
Take responsibility for knowing what is happening on the financial side of your business.
2) You are not exempt from “The Process”
I’ve written about “The Process” before, and I have no doubt that I will write about “The Process” again.
The biggest driver of accurate, informative and timely management accounts is The Process – getting the Right People doing the Right Thing at the Right Time.
But The Process only works if everyone follows it. If you’re employing a bookkeeper or a finance team, chances are that they love a good Process. It makes their lives easier. They’re probably doing their best to follow The Process.
The hard truth is that you are very likely going to have to change how you do things. It’ll be uncomfortable for you. You won’t like it at all. It may even take a smidge longer in the moment – but it will save you time later when you don’t have a list of queries to deal with.
I was explaining the process to someone who told me that doing it that way would take too long. So, I asked him a question:
“Longer than the hour and a half and counting you’ve spent with me at 8 pm on a Thursday evening trying to figure out what you did while you should be spending time with your wife and kid?“
3) Meet those deadlines!
I’ll let you in on a secret here: Accountants don’t love work so much that they make unnecessary work for themselves.
If your accountant is asking for something, it’s for one of two reasons:
Either SARS has requested it, or it is needed to complete the task you’ve requested.
Sidebar: If The Process had been followed, they probably wouldn’t need to ask.
4) Understand all they have to offer
Accountants aren’t accountants because they failed at their acting careers. They’re accountants because they love numbers and working with and improving the businesses they work with.
Sure, they can submit everything on time and make sure you never get a phone call from SARS – but that’s not interesting, and it’s not really adding value.
Accountants enjoy being able to design a new report, solving a problem or seeing someone use what they’ve prepared to run their business better.
The best analysis of performance happens collaboratively – with the people who prepare the reports and the people who know what happens in the business on the daily.
So engage with your accountant. Query numbers. Ask how and why. And then action the recommendations.
In summary, the clients that get the best out of their accountants are the ones who demand the most, while also delivering the most. The expectations are clear, but so are the responsibilities on both sides – and when everyone delivers, good business happens.