This is the third article in our series helping you find an accountant.
Whether you are self-employed, a small or a large business, solid financial information is critical to your success, and your accountant plays a key role in this. When changing accountant or signing up with an accountant for the first time, you have to be able decide that you can trust them. After all, you hand over your money for a service that is crucial for you and your business. You simply have to be able to trust that the people who take your money deliver the service you pay for.
In this article, we’ll discuss the three Ts of changing accountants: Transparency, Talking and Taking charge.
The first T, ‘Transparency’, has two components.
The first component is language. Let’s look at your current accountants first. When you talk to them, what language do they use? Is their language clear and transparent? Are they able to explain what they are doing for you in words that you can understand without having to learn a completely new vocabulary?
Their communication with you should be free from their jargon as much as possible. If they use any jargon, it should be yours. Not just because you are their client, but above all, because it shows you that they understand your business.
The same rule applies to prospecting for or interviewing a new accountant. Don’t forget, you are not applying for a job, you are interviewing them. You have to decide whether they are a good fit for your business and whether you want to give them your hard earned money.
The second component is money. How much will they charge you? Is their fee structure transparent or is it wide open for huge surprises like hidden charges and extra billing?
Receiving an unexpected hefty invoice for telephone calls, letters and other communications can be a nasty surprise. Arriving in addition to the agreed fee, these extra charges can place a considerable burden especially on start-ups and small businesses.
Don’t be afraid to ask right at the beginning what you have to expect and when. If they charge a fixed fee, find out what it includes. Read the small print in the contract. If they are not transparent about it, think again.
The second T stands for ‘Talking’.
The kind of talking you are looking for is a dialogue. Not surprisingly, the most important aspect of this kind of talking is listening.
How do they talk when you first visit them? Do they ask questions about your business? It is a good sign if they show genuine interest in your business.
If their questions are perfunctory, they may just be masquerading as being interested. In which case they are not listening, they are just waiting to use the questions as hooks to show you how good they are. They are not interested in a dialogue.
Ask them how much they like to talk to their clients. This will show you whether they are proactive with real concern for the success of their clients’ business or primarily concerned with telling you what they will do for you and how much they’ll charge.
Of course, it is vital that you know what your expenses will be. But if the year-end invoice is all they are likely to communicate, ask yourself whether this is the support you want for your business.
3. Taking Charge
The third T stands for ‘Taking Charge’.
Good financial information is critical for your business. To be able to take charge of your business you need to know the state of your business finances at all times and whether you are on track to achieve your business goals.
This is the platform on which your communication with your accountants should rest. They provide the information as and when you need it, not just at year-end.
They should also encourage you to use tools that can give you this information fast. Nowadays, this means collaborative online data. Your accountants should also give you control over final accounts and submit them only after your approval.
Many people worry that by using a complete accountancy service they will lose control of their finances. It is not the role of an accountant to take over your accounts, rather it is to ensure that they are managed effectively.
If you do have concerns about this, there are a number of things that you can consider. Online accounting software allows you collaborative access. You both have access to the same figures and reports on a portal. Changes can easily be identified, and you can keep track of your accounts at all times. It also makes it easier and faster for you to approve your accounts before submission.
Changing accountants should be based on trust from the outset. The three Ts, Transparency, Talking and Taking Charge, are the prime components of this. When you can establish at your first meeting that they are in place, you know that you will be able to fully trust the service and information you will receive from your accountants.
Finally, here is one more T:
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