Are you having problems with your small business accountant?

Before you cut the cord on the relationship, ask yourself why you’re considering breaking up a relationship with a business advisor. Accountants aim to develop long term relationships with clients. Ideally, they would work with you to understand your business from a financial and tax perspective so you can feel a sense of ownership and make the best decisions for your company’s future. 

So, what if your expectations are not being met? What is it specifically that you’re upset about? 

Do you have a problem with a tax return?

This might be easily solved with better communication. Your accountant may assume you understand a concept that you don’t. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! As in many professions, some people don’t know what you don’t know because they’re surrounded by it every day and it feels obvious to them. 

Is your accountant not responding to calls and emails?

A lack of good communication is a symptom of a poor relationship. They may not think your situation is as important as you do. Accountants, generally, are not known for great customer service. Many accountants just can’t relate to you as a business owner. You’ll probably have a better one-on-one relationship with an accountant (or accounting firm) who is also a small business. 

Does your accountant make you feel like you aren’t financially successful enough to be an “ideal client”?

Some accountants are judgy, and you know it.  Do you feel like your business doesn’t really count, that your worries are small and insignificant? They think you should just be able to handle it, don’t ask dumb questions. Sure, they’ll take your money and give you the minimum of service, but they don’t really care about you. They are more caught up with the ‘big’ clients and their ‘big’ retainers. 

Is your accounting firm being purchased by one of the few Big Firms? 

If you’re worried about being lost in their corporate shuffle and feeling like you’ve lost your personalized service, perhaps you should consider finding another, smaller, firm that provides bookkeeping and accounting services for small businesses. They simply may be a better fit for you.

Are you paying for costs you were not aware of beforehand? 

A good accountant would set expectations and budgets at the beginning of your relationship and make your month-to-month relationship clear, to minimize the chance of this happening. 

Are you disappointed because of a lack of advice? 

If you’re looking for suggestions on ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues and improve profits, have you inquired about advisory services? Although some accountants specialize in tax planning and compliance, others are experts in business advisory services for businesses and entrepreneurs. These services provide strategic and tactical value to everyone but can be especially helpful to those in creative fields. One of the main advisory services used by small businesses is Financing Cash Flow, many times to cover the cost of hiring an employee.

Did they not follow through with their promises?

One of our clients came to us after having a disappointing relationship with their previous accounting firm. Although this new small business owner knew they weren’t receiving the guidance they needed, it wasn’t until a certain phone call that it really hit home and enough was enough. 

If this is the first accounting or bookkeeping firm you’ve used as a small business owner, you may not know that you can have it better. People put up with a lot more from their financial advisors compared to any other service.  If you don’t like your lawyer, you can ask for your company’s Minute Book and leave, no strings attached. Unfortunately, too many people fail to recognize the emotional strain they’re under from their bad accountant and/or bookkeeper until they’re in full-blown panic mode. 

It may be hard to change your business finances, but know that there are better partnerships available. If you’ve only ever been swimming in a chlorinated pool, you don’t know what swimming in a freshwater lake is like. Trust that there are better options available. Prepare to take the plunge.

Finding the right fit

Entrepreneurs get into business to do what they love to do. Accountants tend to lean into the big picture. A small business accountant at a smaller firm is more hands-on, asks more questions and can implement plans to streamline and automate your financial systems with cloud-based solutions and save for those tax-related payments to the Canadian Revenue Agency.

If you don’t have an in-house Chief Financial Officer, having an outsourced accountant that acts like an in-house CFO is the next best thing. Realistically, how do you pay yourself? What are your costs every month? How do you set up an Accounts Receivable strategy? How do you take care of your family’s benefits needs? How do you manage credit card debt and bridge financing? How do you improve cash flow?  What about funding and financing?

A trusted accountant sees the bigger picture and understands the challenges that small business owners go through. Find an experienced small business accountant who’s ideal client matches you. Proactive small business accountants act as a partner who seeks to understand your current business operations and find out what your pain points are.  You’ll be asked about what your typical day looks like, how much vacation time you’re able to take, as well as your long-term goals. The accountant’s goal is to find out how and where to help so that you navigate towards a more prosperous future. A great accountant can become a trusted advisor. 

How do you do the break-up?

Whatever the reason, you will need to tell your accountant that you are no longer using their services, so they can prepare to transfer your accounting information over to your new accountant. Arrange to call or meet with your accountant to let them know you have decided to move on. Use the opportunity to objectively explain the reasons why, and thank them for their service. Even if you’re not naturally comfortable with numbers and finances, you know if you’re getting the right service, skills, experience and resources to help you take things to the next level. Don’t settle for anything less.

*At Upside, we provide a list of everything you should get back. As well, we can reach out to your last accounting professional to ensure a smooth transition.