The countdown to 2015 has begun and you may have started thinking about what you can do in the new year to grow your business. In years past you may have made plans to overhaul your marketing initiatives or expand your product or service offering, but what if instead of planning specific tactics for growth you partnered with an advisor that consistently helped you make better, quicker business decisions?
Who is this potential partner? It’s someone you may not expect – an accountant. I know what you’re thinking – an accountant is someone who helps small businesses with taxes on an annual basis. In fact, you may be one of these small businesses that drops off a shoe box full of receipts to an accountant and makes plans to visit again the next year for the same service. This is not the type of partnership I’m suggesting. Exciting things are happening in the accounting profession and the way an accountant wants to engage with you is changing.
Accountants are transforming the way they do business, still ready and willing to help you with your tax preparation, but also focusing on partnering with their clients, and small businesses in general, to help them wade through the day to day, adopting the technology that helps them make real-time recommendations that can alter your financial health.
Why is this shift occurring? Accountants recognize that small businesses are seeking growth opportunities, and in order to stay relevant, the accountant must transform their business model to advise on these opportunities. In fact, in the recent 2014 Sage Accountancy Index, 62 percent of accountants said they are expanding their range of expertise into new disciplines including business mentoring, startup advice, and payroll services.
You may not have the right information to identify what your goals should be, or to develop a strategy to meet these goals, and that’s okay. This is where the accountant can step in to act as an advisor. Below are some of the many benefits to working with an accountant that serves as a valuable, trusted advisor:
- Business intelligence. Accountants will use information that exists within the data banks of accounting systems to make informed business decisions.
- Leveraged professional advice. An accountant is an extension of your business and you can leverage their insights on a regular basis without needing to make a full-time resource investment.
- Risk mitigation. Your accountant can provide you with action items on a timely basis to proactively address downside risk to profitability and interruptions to your business operations.
- Time to do the critical work. Partnering with an accountant that wants to be your business advisor means you’ll get more time back in your day to manage your business vs. spending hours trying to understand what all the numbers mean.
- Competitive advantage. Use your accountant to apply leading edge management practices and to set strategic plans and objectives and monitor the progress to achieving goals.
- Allows you to focus on why you started your business. Why get bogged down with tasks that don’t help you realize your passions? Accountants will take on the heavy lifting of many different aspects of your business.
- Accountants can provide a new perspective. Often times entrepreneurs are so involved running the day-to-day operations of their business that they may not be able to see the whole picture. Someone who is removed from the business can provide a different perspective that may otherwise be missed. Partnering with an accountant can be like taking a step back, looking at the bigger picture and gaining a fresh, new perspective. Sometimes that’s all it takes to come up with the next big idea.
- Accountants have reach. Don’t underestimate how valuable it is to receive guidance from someone who has insight and knowledge across hundreds of businesses and industries. Accountants not only get to see the financial information of many businesses across a variety of industries, but they also have visibility into best practices that are working for other businesses as well as the mistakes others have made that have led to failure. Being able to have this insight and share information on what has or hasn’t worked for others is invaluable – why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to?
- Businesses need a plan. One reason thousands of businesses fail every year is because they didn’t have a plan. When asked why, they said, “I just didn’t know where to start.” This is where an accountant can step in and assist. A good accountant will partner with a business to look at all the data and help build a roadmap to success.
- Analyze data for growth and profitability opportunities. If all your data is just “sitting” in a database and you’re not interpreting, analyzing or using it to help drive your business direction and decisions, then you’re missing out on a great opportunity. Have an accountant help you dive into the numbers and use them to propel greater business growth and profitability in the future.
Take some time to determine what it is you would want out of a partnership with an accountant, and identify what you think your business goals should be. Then you’re ready to talk it through with your accountant.
Keep in mind while accountants as a whole are transforming the way they do business to better partner with you, not all accountants are taking this approach. It’s important to understand what your accountant’s vision is for their firm. If it’s not a good fit, don’t feel bad about searching for another accountant partner. If you’re not sure where to begin the search for an accountant, start by asking for recommendations from other business owners in your community.
Can your business experience growth in 2015 without the assistance of an outside accountant? Sure, but the extra insight, guidance, and expertise a trusted advisor offers can be the catalyst that makes your business thrive.
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Jennifer Warawa is vice president and general manager at Sage Accountant Solutions. She has a passion for entrepreneurs and small business that stems from her time as a small business owner for over a decade in her hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia. In her role at Sage, Jennifer is leading efforts to provide accountants with the technology and education they need to transform their firms and better serve their clients.