There are several professional accountant and financial advisers, and potential allies, that you will need to consult when running business. These might include: your accountant, your bank manager, your solicitor, your insurance broker. This post provides tips on how to deal with such professional adviser to get the most out of them. Enjoy!
How to Deal with Your Accountant
Before you start in business it is well worth finding an accountant to advise you. They will normally:
- prepare, and if necessary audit, your financial statement;
- agree your tax liabilities with the IRS.
They will also be able to help you with:
- advice on the purchase or sale of your business;
- advice on how to keep the books;
- arrangements for business finance; and
- writing up the statutory books for a limited company (if applicable) investment advice many other kinds of independent financial advice.
Although we looked at the preparation of annual financial statement in discussions, in practice small businesses actually do this themselves. Instead they keep the books of prime entry [cash book, daily journal entry, etc.) and pass them to their accountant at the end of the year so that he or she can prepare the accounts for them.
Choosing An Accountant
When choosing an accountant the following points should be considered:
- Choose a firm of the right sort of size for your business. If your business is small with only a few staff then a local accountancy practice may be best. It will undoubtedly have plenty of experience of dealing with small businesses just like ours and appreciate local trading conditions. On the other hand if your business is large, or if you need advice on specialist areas (e.g. the taxation implications of setting up a subsidiary oil company in Arab Emirate ) then it is probably better to consult one of the larger national firms.
- If you choose a small firm, it’s best to find one whose partners belong to one of the main recognised bodies (e.g. one of the Big Four Accounting Firm).
- Listen to the advice of other local business owners (particularly in the same line of business). They have had practical experience of dealing with an accountant and can base any recommendations on personal knowledge.
- Finally, the personal factor. Choose an accountant you can really talk and discuss your accounting and financial issues with. Your association may last many years and you need someone you feel “right” with in the good times and the bad.
You Should Open With Your Accountant; Why?
Your accountant will prepare your annual accounts and advise you on your financial affairs. But they can only do so if you give them all the facts. If they ask you questions about your finance, it’s because they needs the details to help and deliver advise that suit your issues. They’re not just being nosey!
Sometimes, for example when dealing with your tax, they might ask questions that seem rather searching and even seem to question your honesty. But it’s far better that they ask the questions rather than the IRS! The accountant can then give an explanation to the Tax Auditor about something that might otherwise arouse suspicions and perhaps give rise to detailed enquiries.
How Does An Accountant Fix Their Fees?
Most accountants charge according to the amount of time taken to deal with your financial issues. Many use a sophisticated time recording system to keep track of the time they spend on each client’s issues; for example, office work, meetings and telephone calls. Different members of the accountant’s staff will be charged out at different rates depending on their technical ability. A junior clerk will obviously be charged out at much less per hour than a partner. The accountant will use the most suitable grade of staff to look after the different aspects of your work.
If you present your records to the accountant in a neat and tidy condition they can keep their fee to a minimum. But if they had to spend many expensive hours sorting out a “messy” set of records, their fee will certainly reflect the extra work.
Do make sure that your work on writing up the records will in fact help your accountant. Some business owners spend hours writing up records, but since they are not in the right form for their accountant much of the time is completely wasted. So, to prevent such situation, discuss your records with your accountant early on, so that you can agree the best way of doing things.
Briefing Your Accountant
Soon after the year end let your accountant have all your accounting records. Do make sure that your records are complete at both the beginning and end of the year. Often bank statements will cover a period that spans the year end. If so the accountant will need the statement twice [i.e. for the previous year and the next year].
It will also help your accountant [and save fees] if you provide them with the following as at the year end:
- details of your inventory valuation
- details of accounts receivable [money owed to you]
- details of accounts payable [money owed by you].
It is also useful to your accountant for you to note any unusual matters concerning the business that have occurred during the year. All these matters will help your accountant prepare your annual accounts (and thereby save you money)!
How to Deal with Bank Manager
Almost every business needs a bank account to carry on its business. You will want to pay your suppliers by checks, and need some way of clearing checks that you get from customers for sales. The high street banks offer much the same services, although from time to time they bring out new accounts or services, giving them an edge [until their rivals copy the idea].
As with choosing an accountant, find a bank that you can work with. Often this depends, at least to some extent, on the local branch manager. If you get on well with them your financial path should be that much smoother.
How to Arrange Bank Borrowing [How to Prevent Bank Manager from Saying “No”]
Sooner or later most businesses [even large businesses] need extra loan finance and in most cases the best place to get it is their own bank. Knowing how to put your case to the bank manager can prove to be a major hurdle and by not putting forward a well-argued case you will hamper your chances of success.
The bank manager can only decide about the loan on the information that they are given. If this is too little or incorrect they’ll have little option but to say “no”.
Do you know: Bank managers do not want to say “no”? Banks make their profits by lending money and if all propositions were turned down they would make no profit! On the other hand a bank must be satisfied that it’s a good lending proposition, and that they will get their money back.
If the proposition is not financially sound the bank will not permit the borrowing. This may seem hard at first, but in practice it often kills a scheme at the outset that would in any case be doomed to failure. As well as protecting their own investment the bank may also be saving yours. Remember, they have lots of experience of businesses [small and large]; the failures as well as the successes.
Putting Forward Your Case
When you put forward your case to the bank, make sure you provide the manager with the following:
- the reason why you require the loan;
- the amount of the loan;
- the anticipated period of the loan;
- your proposals for repayment;
- details of any assets you can put up as security for the loan.
If the manager is not familiar with your business [perhaps because you have only just moved to the bank] you should provide them with a brief typed review of the business and its history. You will be helping them to help you.
How to Deal with Solicitors
From time to time you may need to consult a solicitor to deal with various business matters, for example:
- the purchase or sale of your business;
- the purchase, sale or lease of property used by the business;
- disputes between the business and its suppliers or customers, including debt collection the preparation of partnership or other legal agreements.
Many of the points about dealing with your accountant also apply to dealing with your solicitor. Remember they are working for you, and you will get the best from them if you give them all the necessary information.
Bear in mind, too, that they charge for many of their services on a time basis, perhaps US$100 to US$200 an hour [probably more in big city like New York or London, for instance]. Don’t be afraid to ask how much. Be clear in your own mind what you want them to do for you when you contact them; you can then give them clear, concise instructions about what is needed. This will save them time and you money.
How To Deal With Insurance Broker
Most businesses need some sort of insurance to protect them when things go wrong. For example:
- fire at the business premises;
- theft of goods or equipment;
- product failure resulting in a claim from customers;
- liability to employees (and the public) for injury at the business premises.
Remember, it could only take one disaster to put all your plans – and perhaps your whole business – at risk. Contact an independent insurance broker and discuss your needs with them. Ask them for competitive quotations and take out insurance accordingly. Many types of cover can often be brought together in one ‘business policy’ with savings in the total premiums.
Along with your other professional accountant and financial advisers, your broker may also be able to help you on life assurance and pension plans.