By Karen Peacock
SVP and Small Business Segment Leader at Intuit
Great accountants don’t just take care of tax-prep and compliance issues. Numbers really do tell a story and today’s entrepreneurs are turning to qualified small business accountants to help drive success and business.
With the right accountant as a thought partner, you can get insights that deliver benefits to your business by analyzing company data and providing strategic advice in support of a wide range of business decisions. How? The major technology engines of the era — cloud computing, social, mobile and big data — are fueling a wave of consulting-based and advisory accounting services.
Sound too fancy for your small business? It isn’t. As the world becomes more connected, more data becomes available and accountants can access more through the cloud — the power of what that can do for you as a business owner will only continue to grow.
Tech-savvy Gen Y and Gen X business owners increasingly expect to interact with their accounting professionals the same way they run their businesses — from the smartphone in their pockets. And they expect fast responses to their requests. The good news is that accountants no longer have to spend most of their time doing manual data entry. As a result, they can instead focus on business strategy, value-add consulting and services.
Following are just some of the ways accountants can help you understand what drives profit for your business, and help put you at the wheel to make essential changes.
Breaking it down
Ever wonder why that high-dollar customer isn’t delivering more to your bottom line? Your accountant can help you see that it’s because you and your staff are spending a disproportionate amount of time on them — wasting precious resources.
That same kind of analysis can be applied to products and services, too.
Say you’re a contractor who does a great job of winning large contracts — but you consistently underbid them, shriveling your profit margin. Your accountant can come to the rescue, analyzing how much you’re underbidding and allowing you to comfortably increase future bids to hit the right level of profitability.
Working with an accountant can also help you figure out which of your products and services you want to really lean into and push to grow.
One small business I recently worked with discovered they were consistently underbidding and losing money on one type of job and making a lot of money on a slightly different type of job.
Overall, the company was doing fine. But once their accountant pulled apart the pieces, one side of the business was flying and another was not doing as well. Once their accountant figured it out and shared it with them, the owners were able to make changes which meant a significant uptick in their overall business.
A trusted partner, powered by the cloud
Understanding the strength of your business should be core to what you expect in an accountant. Your accountant should be a trusted partner, constantly brainstorming how to build on strengths or shore up what’s going poorly.
With the advent of cloud-based accounting software, accountants can tap into your business information in a more granular way. Gone are the days where they need to “manage the books” on an hourly basis. Instead, accountants can save you time by ensuring your data is up-to-date by accessing your books anytime, anywhere and quickly moving between the books and offering strategic advice that really matters. Cloud-based accounting software develops key insights from data that accountants can serve up to you with detailed recommendations, and they don’t have to actually come to your place of business to do it.
Comparative aspects such as year-over-year trends can be actionable if you know what you’re seeing. If you know that your January revenue is down this year, how can you know whether that’s a bad thing? Your accountant can and should tell you whether it’s just a blip or something you really need to work on.
The truth is that some small businesses engage their accountant as a real thought partner and have exactly these kind of rich conversations. Others view the relationship as more transactional. As a small business owner, it’s incumbent that you ask the right questions, have high expectations of what your accountant can do for you and find the right partner because every small business deserves a trusted adviser.
In my own life, my husband is an entrepreneur. When he started his business, one of the things we talked about was finding the right accountant. For him, it took a hard-won lesson to get there. He initially did the basic work himself — quickly realizing that it was taking too much time and that he needed outside help.
At Intuit, our QuickBooks ProAdvisor Program has an online community of more than 150,000 ProAdvisors worldwide that allows you to search for local accounting professionals, so I pointed him there — but you can also look on Yelp or other referral outlets. It’s worth talking to at least two or three candidates to figure out where you have the right chemistry and how you can partner together to both succeed.
For my husband, at first it was about getting help on bookkeeping and compliance. As sales grew, his accountant helped him create a consistent policy for when his company should recognize (or book) revenue and then leverage it to build a financial plan. That’s important for all entrepreneurs who are looking to drive growth and need investment along the way. Putting thought into your revenue build will pay off because it’s something you’ll show potential investors.
My husband found someone who was the right fit in terms of skills and expertise for his business. It’s inspired him and freed him to concentrate on growing his company. It can, and should, do the same for you.
This article first appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Republished with permission.