Are You Getting The Most Out Of Your Accountant?

By Mahyar K. Hansotia

Tax season may be over for the year, but that doesn’t mean the relationship with your accountant should be, too. As a business owner, if you only speak with them when it’s time to file, you may be missing out on plenty of useful counsel that goes well beyond ways to save on your taxes. In fact, an accountant should be considered your trusted advisor and partner to your success, providing year round strategic advice.

Most companies, especially small to medium size enterprises (SME’s), rely on their accountant for traditional services such as bookkeeping, tax filing, and providing financial statements. But beyond these basic services, a good accounting firm will have a multidisciplinary focus that provides an array of client solutions, and will proactively help you create a plan to realize your business goals. They will understand you, your business and your industry such that they can help you create efficiencies, maximize savings and grow your business. If your accountant isn’t proactively asking what your business goals are, you may not be getting the best advice.

In addition to tax matters and financial records, a good accountant can also provide valuable input and services in the following circumstances:

If you’re a start-up

Especially for new entrepreneurs, it’s important to create a network of advisors whom you can trust to provide sound advice, feedback or direction. When starting a new venture, your accountant can help determine the best business structure (i.e., sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership) including share structure and shareholders. They can also advise on instances when it may be advantageous to change the structure, such as moving from a sole proprietorship to corporation.

Succession Planning

Every business owner will need to think about retirement and have a succession plan for their business, whether to transfer to their children, sell to key employees or to a third party. An accountant can provide valuable guidance and assistance several years before the sale to make it more attractive to a potential buyer. They will work with you, lawyers and other specialists during the entire process to ensure the transaction is done smoothly, efficiently and most importantly, as tax efficiently as possible.

Following the money

Business owners are understandably passionate about their product or service, but often don’t have the time – or sometimes the inclination – to focus on number crunching and financial analysis. In this case, your accountant can assist with the financial side of your business and help you determine areas for growth by providing insight on cash flow patterns and business financing, or property and equipment leasing and purchase. They can help owners think of possible solutions and strategies that they may not have previously considered. And, they can interpret your financial data into an easy to understand summary so you can spend your time doing more of what you do best.

Finally, a good accountant can also be a trove of valuable information and contacts when it comes to your business’ sore points. Their wealth of experience with other clients allows them to offer ideas or potential solutions that have helped them or their clients in similar situations.

Mahyar K. Hansotia is President of Sobel and Company, Professional Corporation, which is focused on business owners of small- to mid-sized companies, as well as large corporations, who are looking for financial acumen and strategic business expertise over and above traditional chartered professional accountant services.