Here’s the trick for having a great relationship with your accountant: Don’t think about what she can be doing for you. Instead, ask yourself, what more can you be doing for her?
Seems contrarian, doesn’t it? You probably think, like most people, that your accountant is the one providing you with the service. That because you’re paying her, so naturally she’s the one who should be trying to please you and not the other way around.
But, in reality, it is the other way around. If your accountant is like most of the accountants I know, she’s likely very busy. She’s probably working by the hour. She’s getting pulled in different directions by many demanding clients. She’s being asked to know things above and beyond the capabilities of someone at her level of expertise.
To really do her job the best way possible for you, it’s up to you to help her. How? By doing these five important things:
1. Agree on a mutual schedule.
No one in business likes surprises, especially accountants. To us, the world is right when we know what’s coming. That’s why you and your accountant should create a mutually agreeable schedule of work. Ask her when it’s best for her to receive your information, make appointments, or file returns.
Many accountants have their busy season during the winter — is it possible you can just extend your returns and have them done in the late spring or early summer when she’s less busy (and can be more focused on you)? Can you both agree on a few dates during the year to meet — in person or by phone — and go over your latest numbers, due dates, and anything else that might have come up in the meantime?
The more you agree on a schedule in advance, the fewer surprises will be encountered when it’s time to prepare your tax returns and financial statements, and your accountant will love that.
2. Be prepared.
Before you meet with your accountant, be prepared. Have an agenda. Ask what information will be needed. Using your accountant as a bookkeeper is not only a waste of time but also a waste of talent. Today’s accounting systems mostly do the bookkeeping for you, so leverage their capabilities. Use an outside bookkeeping service if necessary. Organize your files. Store as much as you can electronically on services in the cloud. Make an effort to keep your records in order.
This will keep meetings with your accountant focused on your issues, and not on administrative details. Your accountant will love that, too.
3. Do what she tells you to do.
If your accountant tells you to make estimated tax payments by a certain date and in a certain amount, then do that. If she tells you to get backup documentation for a transaction, then get it. If she tells you to record things in a certain way, then do that, too.
There’s nothing worse for a professional than having a client ignore their specific advice or directions. She’s telling you this stuff to make your life better — and hers, too. So, out of respect for her — and in the best interests of your business — listen to what she says and then do it.
4. Help her do her job.
All good relationships are built on trust, and there’s no better example of that than your relationship with your accountant. She doesn’t work for the IRS. She’s not a police officer. She’s your partner and your advisor, and, for her to do her job the best way possible, she’s going to need to know everything that you know.
Keep her up to date on what’s going on in your professional, and even your personal, life if you think it has a financial impact. Share with her your full books and records. Let her know the problems you’re having and any challenges you’re facing.
5. Overpay her.
Yes, overpay her. Don’t haggle about her rates. Don’t question the time she spends. Don’t extend her payment terms or sit on her invoices. It’s insulting and will damage your relationship. Think about it — how do you feel when a customer treats you that way?
Make sure that she’s profiting from her relationship with you. Make it so that she doesn’t cringe every time you call or have to count the seconds she’s spending on your account lest she lose money. Let’s face it — your sunny personality can only go so far. In the end, you have a business relationship with your accountant, and the more money she earns from it, the more she’ll love you.
Notice something about these five tips? They’re all about the accountant. They’re all about what’s making her life better, what’s in her best interest, what’s helping her the most. Does that seem contrary? It shouldn’t. If she’s happy with your relationship, then you can be sure she’ll be doing what she can to maintain it — and that will only benefit you and your business.