Signs you’ve outgrown your accountant
If you’re not getting proactive, strategic advice and support from your tax accountant, and you feel like you’re not looking to the future, it might be time to look for a new accountancy firm. One that works in partnership with you to maximise the potential of your business and minimise issues.
I chatted with Michael Mekitharian at ATB Chartered Accountants about some of the concerns business owners have.
Michael, do you find that business owners don’t get a quick response from their accountant?
“Often you find that clients are frustrated because their accountant isn’t getting back to them. As their business needs grow, their accountancy needs grow, and smaller accountancy firms can’t always respond to this. The feedback we get is that they don’t get calls back, they don’t have enough regular meetings and their accountant is not proactive.
Traditional accountants are notorious for taking a long time to respond to questions. Those accountants’ businesses are often not structured well enough to handle even simple questions that could be answered quickly, by other team members.
At ATB, if someone calls and I’m not available, there is always someone else who can address the question. A lot of accountancy firms don’t have that backup. Not every question needs to be answered by a partner… Our response will always be ‘how can I help you?’ If a partner is not available, our team members may be able to help you, or a meeting will be scheduled if necessary. Waiting for one person to answer something relatively simple is not the best use of your time… At ATB we make sure there is always someone on hand.”
So how often should you be seeing your accountant?
“A minimum of twice a year – around April or May when we’re planning year end and tax. Then again about 4 or 5 months later to present tax returns and discuss the outcomes of the year. However we prefer to work on a quarterly basis. That way we can discuss what happened in the last quarter and what things you can do to improve your business. We like to meet with larger clients monthly to discuss results of the last month, and look at what went well and what didn’t.”
And they can bring up ideas and plans they have?
“Very much so. The old way was meeting with your accountant once a year when you would receive your tax bill. But at ATB we workshop ideas in our meetings. We work through the planning process, provide business mentoring, and discuss goals and aspirations so we can see if you’re getting to where you want to be, and what will work. The ideas flow naturally because that person is out of their business and thinking about that they want to try. It’s a forum for saying ‘how can I improve my business’?”.
Why is it important to be proactive?
“If you’re doing your tax return 9 months after the year has ended, you cannot truly understand the tax outcomes, and often miss the opportunities for minimizing or deferring tax, or worse still, miss opportunities to improve your business.
If you are asked what your profit is, would you know? If the answer is ‘no’ how would you know what tax you are liable for? Clients in this position often don’t fully understand their cash flows nor do they know where to look for more improvements in their business.
Identifying issues in a business and dealing with them immediately is the smart way to go and at ATB we aim to identify any issues early on, and work with you to apply strategies to mitigate that problem.”
In order to be proactive, you have embraced technology…
“Yes, we couldn’t do it without it – we have always looked for good technology to improve what we do. We developed a paperless office to make information accessible across our offices. Also we have embraced Xero – and we are proud to be Xero gold partners.
Technology allows us to actively monitor our systems and to prepare quarterly business activity statements. It also gives us visibility of changes within your business and follow up proactively.
For larger businesses where we have developed and agreed a budget, part of ATB accounting services is to do monthly or quarterly reports against your budget. This means we can foresee cashflow problems or other issues and we can drill down on those issues in good time. If you’re doing that 9 months after the fact, it can be disastrous.
Don’t make the mistake of calling the accountant when you’ve run out of cash. It’s far better to be on the front foot”.
Are clients clear on what their fees are for?
“At ATB we offer fixed fees. This means for example, if we agree to prepare tax return, do your budget and reporting, and meet 3 times per year, then that’s what you get. And you will understand the fee structure around that. This approach gives you the satisfaction that you’re getting what you pay for.
If you’re getting repairs done to your house, you would get a quote and know exactly what you’re getting for your money upfront.. ‘Yes, that’s good value’, or ‘no that’s too expensive’… Accountancy services should be no different.”
So are clients getting more value for their time than they used to?
“A proactive accountant will work with their clients to gather information continuously. Spending face to face time sourcing bank statements or documentation from 10 months ago is not giving you value for money.
Time spent with your accountant should be spent on improving your business – value is ‘how do we get a better result?’.”
As well as technology, you bring a lot of experience of what works
“Yes there are 3 directors here at ATB and a large team of 14 people, with 300+ businesses. We have a lot of experience with different industries and generally we will have seen your business or a business like yours, and similar issues, and bring experience to the table to help with the decision making process.
Whether your business is large or small, our principles at ATB are the same. Face to face appointments are crucial, the more you engage and are proactive with your accountant, the more you can address issues before they get too big, and can plan for your success.
At ATB the accountants take the time to get to know you and your business and work in partnership with you to achieve your goals and avoid pitfalls.
We take pride in our deep industry expertise and getting the best outcomes for our clients.”
Michael, are you having more fun than you were 20 years ago?
“Very much so! 20 years ago the focus was on compliance and documentation preparation as that’s what we had to do then, there was no technology to assist us. Now the real focus is not only on preparation of tax returns but on improving a business and helping people achieve their goals and aspirations. Some want to leave a legacy or put back in to the community. We’re not here to judge but to help make it happen. And among that we want to have fun and for our clients to have fun too!
Contact us to find out how ATB Chartered Accountants can transform your business. With a bit of fun thrown in.