Three tips on how to work with your accountant

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Three tips on how to work with your accountant

Are you under-using your accountant? These tips may save you time, money and angst in the long run.

Earlier this year we passed on some technology-centric tips for working effectively with an accountant or bookkeeper.

This time we asked ESV Accounting and Business Advisors partner Tim Valtwies about the softer side of the relationship between a small business and its accountant or other advisor.

1. Communicate early

"Engage early and have a simple discussion," Valtwies recommended.

It's important to talk to your accountant before you do something new or different. People can be put off by the idea of paying for billable hours, but it is often expensive to fix something retrospectively, according to Valtwies, so it is important to seek the accountant's input from the outset.

For example, one of Valtwies' clients set up a new business using the same structure as a previous venture, but it was not the right choice for a number of reasons. ESV would have recommended a different structure with various advantages for the client, but making the change was costly as government charges as well as professional fees were involved.

2. Ask about IT

Even if an accounting firm doesn't offer IT services, it is well placed to provide advice and observations about a client's IT systems that can avoid headaches and help the business run more efficiently.

Owners tend to see this as an unnecessary expense, he conceded, but it can save money in the longer run.

3. Ask about staff performance

Accountants can also provide a view on how well particular parts of a business are operating, and how certain staff such as the financial controller or operations manager are performing.

"Sometimes the people don't grow with the business," Valtwies observed. That can extend to the founder or owner, in which case they need advice about which responsibilities they should hand over to a more appropriate person.

"It's about what the business really needs at any particular time," he said. "It's hard to get the right fit" but an accountant can help.

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