February 17, 2016
Accountants inhabit a unique position in the business world. They see data from a multitude of clients and can spy trends before others do. In Silicon Valley, I've heard numerous stories where an accountant saw business struggling to get funded and recommended that other clients tighten the belt as well. Those that controlled or reduced spend survived. Business clients that ignored the advice didn't.
The difference between the success and failure of a business can boil down to one item: An accountant taking a strong stance as an advisor.
Most entrepreneurs don't start a business to do the accounting. They don't have a passion for (or maybe even an education in) cash flow, forecasting, bill pay or other accounting principles. They start a business to focus on a different passion, whether it's technology, retail or a law practice.
Businesses expect their accountants to exhibit experience and financial acumen. They want their accountants to advise their businesses quickly and accurately. They expect the accountant to relate their experience specifically to the businesses.
After all, accountants pick their profession because they have a passion for numbers.
Leveraging an accountant allows the business to benefit from the passion and experience the accountant has developed over an entire career. This combination frees up the business to focus on what matters—building products, solutions or services that customers want.
Accountants who merely "do what they are asked to do" inflict a great disservice onto their business clients. Accountants must be active advisors, not "order takers."
In order to attain this role, accountants should follow three steps.
1. Lead with technology
Develop a financial tool set that you require clients to use. The tool set will bring you into the business on the frontend versus after-the-fact.
Accountants no longer have to be held hostage by their clients' technology. How many times have you received downloaded databases from clients only to find that the information is incorrect or old? Or have you had to wade through reams of misfiled papers in a client's office to find a critical piece of data on paper?
Cloud technology enables a higher level of accurate collaboration based on integration and ease of use. There's also the reduction of paper in favor of electronic information and the enablement of mobile use. All summed together, this translates to unprecedented visibility into a company's financial performance. It also provides the optimal company information platform to draw from so you can actively advise companies.
In the end, you aren't eating what the company feeds you. You're creating the menu and explaining it to them.
2. Schedule regular meetings with your clients
Each month, sit down with your clients to review the basics of the business and discuss performance metrics. This process ensures that owners fully understand their companies' financial health and performance.
3. Hold longer, more in-depth quarterly reviews with your clients
While the monthly meetings touch upon day-to-day or short-term performance, these longer reviews examine what works or doesn't work on a big picture/long-term basis. It also enables you to offer advice based on your experience.
If accountants aren't leading the conversation with their clients, someone else well. As a professional in the industry, I have seen this over and over again. Take the opportunity now to lead businesses to success by providing sound financial and business advice. It can make the difference between a business surviving or failing.
This article originally appeared in The Progressive Accountant