Accountancy services that take care of the day to day back office and admin work are essential for any business to be able to grow. Money is hard earned and in today’s competitive business climate, we all need good value for money. But, are you getting it from your accountancy firm? Here’s our 12 point checklist to see whether you are getting good value for money from your accountant. Read on to see how you accountant stacks up.
1- Does your accountant offer something different?
Does your accountancy firm offer something that sets them apart from the others? If so, what is it? Do they offer 24-7 support? Will the firm drop things and tend to your needs in an emergency? Do they tailor advice to your business needs? Do they use the latest software and technology to find relevant and valuable data such as key performance indicators that you can use to grow your business? Ask yourself what your accountant offers you that you could not get elsewhere.
2- Do they use cloud software services to tend to your needs at any time from anywhere?
All modern accountancy firms should be recommending cloud-based solutions. This means that they can log into their online servers and tend to your needs at any time and from anywhere. Cloud software solutions are also more secure than traditional in-house databank systems. If they use cloud services, it’s a sign that they are progressive and well versed in a world of ever-changing technology. If your accountant is on top of their game, it means that they are helping you stay on top of yours. Is your accountant using up to date cloud-based software solutions?
3- Does your accountant offer a fixed fee for services?
Does your accountancy firm send you an invoice every time you ask for advice or send them an email query? If so, you might want to look at the benefits of engaging a firm that offers fixed fee services and better value for money. This gives price certainty month on month and ensures that there are no hidden costs and greater transparency. It also gives you total control over your costs and enables you to budget and plan more comprehensively in the medium and long-term. The question you should be asking here is: Does your accountancy firm offer good value for money fixed fees for a clearly defined and transparent suite of services?
4- Can you pick up the phone and talk to them?
While automated software helps everyone get things done quickly, more efficiently and more securely, we all still need that personal touch.
If you are trying to get in touch with your accountant to ask a question about something or simply trying to touch base and have a chat and they ignore you, it might be time to reconsider your options. Business owners need to feel familiarity and that they trust their accountants. They should always be available for you, after all, that’s what you are paying them for. Ask yourself questions like: When was the last time you met face-to-face? How quickly do they respond to phone calls and emails?
5- Do they stick to deadlines?
One of the main reasons why small business owners engage bookkeepers or accountants is because they want peace of mind. They want to delegate bookkeeping and accounting tasks with full confidence that the work is being completed while they concentrate on growing their business. Does your bookkeeper or accountant stick to deadlines? If you find yourself chasing them to see whether that BAS has been lodged or to update your accounts payable and receivable, then it might be time to have a meeting to make sure you are a priority. The client should always be at the centre of any accountancy firm and if you are not, then it might be time to take your business elsewhere. This one is simple: Do they get things done by the date they promised to?
6- Does your accountant drive you?
Your accountant should be driving you and challenging you by asking about your future plans and how to grow your business. In turn, they should be coming up with ideas and plans for your future growth and how to keep things on an even keel so your overall strategy can be implemented. Your accountancy firm should ask you the tough questions. They shouldn’t let you lose focus and become complacent. Does your accountant drive you?
7- Does your accountant value your business?
When two parties have been in a long-term business relationship, you will often find that things are taken for granted. Just because the relationship might have become like that with your favourite pair of bathroom slippers, it does not mean that it is good for your business in the long-term.
Your accountant should not just go through the motions and get the job done without thinking outside the box to offer you innovative solutions that are new to the market. The big question you need to ask here is: Do they value your business?
8- Does your accountancy firm move with the times?
The market literally changes every few weeks. Innovation is supreme and new business ideas and models are popping up all the time. Does your accountant move with the times, or are they still using pencils, paper and paper clips? An accountancy firm does not have to adopt every single technological advance, but they should be moving forward to help you move forward. Ask yourself whether your accountancy firm has well and truly stepped into 2017. If they have not, then it could mean that they are holding your business back in the process. Is your accountant up to speed in an ever-changing world?
9- Does your accountant look at the bigger picture?
Living in the short-term is not an option in today’s business climate. You cannot afford to simply look at the year ahead, you need a long-term plan. While you need to have a vision of where you want your business to be in five or even ten years, your accountant needs to ask you the questions which will allow them to look ahead and be in tune with your overall plan. Ask yourself the question: Does your accountant firefight and just look at things in term of one financial year, or do they see the bigger picture and help you plan to realise it?
10- Does your accountant talk with you, rather than at you?
There is no doubt that accountancy is a very specialised field and more often than not, business owners do not want to know the intricacies of theory. But you should feel as if you are getting a good understanding of how things work and what they are doing for your business. If you walk away from a meeting with your accountant feeling like you are none the wiser than when you walked in, your accountant might be talking at you and not taking your needs into account. Ask yourself whether your accountant makes you feel more knowledgeable and ask whether they have actually listened to you and addressed your concerns. The question here is: Does your accountant make you feel valued and informed?
11- Is your accountant realistic?
It is all well and good to shoot for the stars and be ambitious and goal-driven. But the risk of rapid over expansion for small to medium-sized businesses is very real. Does your accountant encourage you to be ambitious with your business growth while retaining realistic expectations? If they push too far or fail to warn you about the potential pitfalls in not keeping grounded, then you might find that your hard-earned business could go under due to unrealistic expectations. Does your accountant help you grow your business while also keeping your feet on the ground?
12- Bonus: Do you feel comfortable working with them?
The question might seem to be a very obvious one to ask, but it is a very important one. While the vast majority of accountancy firms are responsible and adhere to the highest standards, you can still find the occasional cowboy, just like in any other profession or trade. Ask yourself this very important question: Does this person make me feel safe and comfortable? If not, trust your gut and move on.
Where do I go from here?
If you answered ‘yes’ 1- 4 times
This is a no-brainer, you are definitely not getting good value for money. If you were only able to give between one and four positive answers about the services and attitude that your accountant gives you, then you pretty much know what you need to do. Just like any other pros and cons list, this one should show you that the time is probably right to find another accountancy firm to tend to your needs. Scoring so low means that your current accountant is definitely not helping your business grow.
If you answered ‘yes’ 5-9 times
This one is not clear cut. You might not get well with your accountant on a personal level, but they keep your accounts in perfect order and give you some great advice. Others might have become great friends of yours over the years, but are stuck in the stone age using notebooks and paper clips. Are they real reasons to get rid of them?.
If your accountant scored at the lower end of this scale, then you should consider finding a new one who is better suited to your business needs.
If they score towards the middle, you should definitely push to get more out of your working relationship.
If they score towards to higher end of the margin, you are doing OK, but you should still see how you can freshen up the relationship and get more value for money.
If you answered ‘yes’ 10-12 times
Home Run! If your accountant has scored between 10 and 11 positive answers, you should do everything you can to keep hold of them. Actually, you should take them out to lunch and buy them a bottle of wine for Christmas. Jokes apart, good professionals are extremely hard to come by and you should do all you can to foster a mutually beneficial working relationship with them.
However, remember Number 6. Always guard against complacency. If you feel that standards are slipping, make sure to tell them about it and push to get your value for money.