9 Signs you need a new accountant
Most business owners and entrepreneurs don’t set up a business with strong financial or accounting knowledge – their expertise lies in the product or service. In their eyes, when it comes to financial matters their accountant is always going to be best placed.
The problem is business owners can easily go through many years in business in complete faith that their finances are in safe hands. After all, your accountant has most likely passed numerous qualifications, belongs to governing bodies and has to adhere to strict codes of conduct. This makes it very difficult to spot whether your business is being held back or not. Unbeknownst to you, switching to a new accountant is a step you need to take to grow your business.
So, how can you spot that it’s time for a new accountant? Here are some things to look out for to help you come to that conclusion.
1. No desire to understand your business
If your accountant is showing no interest in getting to know your business, they’re falling at the first hurdle. Understanding what your objectives and ambitions are, how your business operates isn’t just about being a good accountant; this is just being professional.
A sign that they’re showing little desire to understand your business would be if your accountant is invoicing you for conversations, rather than seeing it as part of the process to better understand what you do. The message this sends out is that they value their time more than understanding your business. Sack them and find an accountant who actually cares about the success of your business.
2. You’re constantly being put through to their PA
There will be integral people within the firm your accountant should have taken the time to introduce you to. On occasion, other people in the firm will be better placed than the partner you deal with. If you’re having to wait for a partner to have the time to give you the advice you need, do other qualified people within the firm exist? If you’re constantly being put through to their PA, it would suggest that you’re just another number and you’re not getting the support and service you should expect.
3. The firm you use is compliance focused
Paying fees every year to make sure you’re compliant and legally sound in the eyes of HMRC might just be all the peace of mind you’re after. However, for most entrepreneurs, their long-term plans won’t just be about being compliant and making sure their VAT return is filed on time. They’ll want an accountant who can make them more profitable and can think about the wider issues surrounding their business.
Being compliant is just scratching the surface. Where is the business advice that is helping your business to grow and be more successful?
4. Promises to be proactive but is anything but
The vast majority of accountants will tell you that they are proactive. It’s a quality most business owners are hoping that their accountant will have. However, you should be right to question their proactiveness if you find out about changes to regulations and legislation long before they tell you.
Business owners want an accountant who can spot opportunities to increase profits, reduce tax liabilities or operating costs. It’s all about being proactive, but if you feel like you’re instigating contact in order to make improvements to your business, then I would question whether you are getting good value for money.
5. They missed a deadline for filing accounts or tax return
Even if this hasn’t happened to you, you probably read the above subheading thinking that you would definitely search for a new accountant if they missed an important accounting deadline. One of the fundamental reasons you hired an accountant is likely to be so you don’t miss deadlines.
6. They’re late adopters to technology and still using paper ledgers
If you go for a meeting at their office and you see boxes of files and paper ledgers everywhere, this would be a pretty big clue. According to research from accounting software company Xero, 1 in 5 accountants are still using paper ledgers. Not only is this way of working hugely unproductive, the knock on effect is that the time and cost to work in this way is passed onto clients.
Your accountant may be chartered and technically sound, but there is no hiding from the fact that the service being delivered is dated. Instead, they should be using technology and the cloud to deliver a faster service, giving them more time to add value through their advice. If they’re not embracing platforms such as Xero and Quickbooks (and these platforms have subscribers all over the world), what else are they missing? Is there an eagerness to pick up new ideas?
7. Unreasonable demands
Are you being asked to do things which seem illogical? At a very basic level, this might be asking you to post documents which could be easily emailed. At the other end of the scale this might be asking for a file which is already a digital copy to be printed out and personally delivered to their office. The latter I’ve experienced myself.
You could perhaps overlook an accountant who’s asking you to post a document rather than email it. But why would you want to? In my experience, an accountant not willing to find easier methods of doing something suggests there are larger issues elsewhere.
8. Management accounts are always late
Many accounting firms will advise business owners to use their management accounting service as a solid measure to help them make informed decisions. Good management accounts should be the first step to truly controlling the finances of your business. However, if you receive management accounts late, not only is this sloppy, the data and information is useless and worse still, your business is being put at risk.
For example, receiving management accounts for January at the end of February would mean even the most recent data is already a month old. Looking back to what was happening in your business at the start of month can be challenging, so you want to be in a position to review accounts as quickly as possible so that you can then have relevant and meaningful discussions.
If you are receiving management accounts late, do you really want an accountant who’s potentially jeopardising your business?
9. They’re not connecting you to other professionals that could help your business
Not every business owner is a professional networker meaning your contact to other people who could help your business may be limited. An accountant should be in a position to recommend personal and corporate tax advisors, wealth and financial advisors and amongst their client base, they may know some fantastic professionals in marketing and HR. It doesn’t just have to stop and end with accounting.
Accountants can do a lot more than just file year end figures, tax returns and the like. If you feel like you pay too much for accountancy services, this is likely because you can’t see where the value is. The fees you pay shouldn’t matter providing you can see where your accountant’s advice is making a real measurable difference to your business. If any of the above sounds familiar, don’t let it hold your business back and start your search for a new accountant.