How to show that all accountants are not the same

Accountants can be key to your survival, and most of them don’t even know it, By Chris Mason of Mindshop and Jonathan Perrin, Vantis Hospitality and Leisure Group

Most business owners and managers are isolated from best-practice business thinking. They are busy with their key customers and key suppliers, and hope that the economy will turn out alright even though this is the toughest time most of us have ever faced. But the average business owner and manager knows that there are three priorities in 2009 – profit, cash-flow and survival. Survival means retention of your best customers and selling them your most profitable products and  services. So where does the accountant fit into this picture?

The average accountant knows profit and cash-flow. They have spent their whole working life dealing with figures, and can read a balance sheet like the rest of us read a newspaper. Test if we’re right by asking your accountant questions like:“How do I improve my cash  flow?” or “What do I need to do to improve my gross margin?”, and you will get a worthwhile response. However, your accountant needs to know the answers to questions such as; “How do I keep my best customers?”, “Which of my employees must I keep?” and “What is my exit strategy and how much can  I be worth when that happens?”

Ask your accountant these questions and watch their body language. Some may not have been expecting those questions, and it’s only the best accountants that lie awake at night thinking about the other questionsfor their clients. This breed are not compliance accountants, they are value-added accountants. Which category is your accountant in? If they hesitate, maybe you need to change.

If your accountant has been with you a long time, doesn’t charge much, and does a good job with your compliance work, consider keeping them, but engage a value-added accountant for helping your business to survive 2009. The best accountants can work closely with you, retaining your old accountant, and using them only for business advice. They know that’s where the value is  and you may well transfer all your business to them later.

One of the most important decisions you will make in 2009 is who will be helping you survive and prosper.  All accountants are not the same. Why not test how good your accountant is by asking the questions above, and then sit back and watch what happens?