The right professional support for your business is, without doubt, one of the most powerful tools a business owner can have in their arsenal. When you’re running your own business, you’ll almost certainly end up taking on a range of different roles within the business. Especially when operating on a limited budget, it’s understandable that some may opt to try to do their accounts themselves.
However, taking on a new accountant is like choosing a new business partner. They will work with you to grow your business and achieve your business aims, all the while offering informed support, advice and guidance as your business grows and develops. When it comes to selecting an accountant for your business, it’s worth taking the time to research thoroughly. Choosing a good one could not only save you time and money, but it can also take a huge weight off your shoulders, knowing that one of the most important areas of your business – your finances – are being handled by an experienced, capable expert.
It’s not just accounts, tax compliance and balancing the books. An accountant can find out exactly what you’re entitled to that you may not know about, and ensure your money is working as hard as it possibly can. Staying on top of your business finances is a big task, even if you aren’t looking at very high revenue. If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to ensure the continual success of your business, it’s worth considering an accountant for professional advice and assistance when it comes to your finances. It could be the best investment you ever make.
But when there are so many out there, how do ensure you're making the right choice? Well, it’s all about working out what’s important to you and your business, and what you need. What do you want from your accountant? What do you hope they’ll add? Here’s my guide to the things to look for and consider when choosing an accountant.
The basics: the fundamental services they should offer
An accountancy practice should provide a variety of services to you and your business. You may not necessarily need them all straight away (i.e. payroll), but it’s useful to know that they have the capacity to handle your growing needs over time.
Accounting, book keeping, tax returns, payroll
These services ensure you can monitor expenses and make sure you are obeying all HMRC tax requirements (known as “compliance”) and that you know where you stand each month. An accountant can help you get set up on accounting software and bookkeeping systems, saving you time, money and hassle when it comes to producing financial statements and tax returns. They’ll also be able to advise you on any tax relief.
Tax is always going to be an inevitable outgoing, but if you run a small business, there are plenty of ways that you can save some money on your tax bill legally. An accountant can help you plan effectively to make the most of tax relief schemes and reduce your overall tax burden, while still ensuring you are in line with all tax laws.
Auditing is the process of reviewing a business in-depth in its entirety, and is usually reserved for more established or larger businesses. This is unlikely to be needed during the early stages, so is not covered in-depth in this guide – however again, depending on what your business aspirations are, it’s good to know that an accountant has the capacity and skill-set to cope if needed.
Arguably one of the most important factors. Given their perspective over your finances, business and market environment, accountants can offer a high level of insight across the board, for everything from business and marketing plans to retirement planning. Let’s look at this in more detail in the next section.
An accountant can find out exactly what you’re entitled to that you may not know about, and ensure your money is working as hard as it possibly can.
A quality accountancy practice offers more than just financial records, reports and compliance. Once all that is sorted, the fun stuff (honestly!) really begins. Having worked with hundreds of businesses, they have the expertise and experience to offer valuable insights and realistic advice on what a business needs to do to develop and grow. The best kind of accountancy firms also offer access to business advisers who aren’t necessarily accountants, but are experienced business experts themselves. This gives you the benefit of not only the adviser’s knowledge and skills, but they can give it additional force and direction with actual figures and informed projections from an accountancy perspective.
A good business advisory team answers questions you didn’t know you needed to ask. They can help you with:
- Marketing plans
- Finding capital through grants or government funding
- Pricing and margins
- Ensuring personal and business goals are compatible
- Networking and introductions to other business owners
- Budgets and accountability
- Bringing in other experts where necessary
Whatever business stage you’re in, professional advice is invaluable. Even before the business starts, an independent, qualified professional outlook is key to reviewing business data, and provides insight on cashflow, profit forecasts and performance to ensure your business decisions are well-informed and based on evidence, not just gut feel or luck.
For example, businesses can have many different types of legal structures. An accountant can advise on whether your particular operation would be best operating as a sole trader, a limited company, a limited liability partnership or a partnership, and help you avoid any legal issue concerns. They can help you prepare for and source funding and investment and advise, for example, on the best loans, overdrafts, and opportunities for your specific business situation.
Once you’re up and running, an accountant can advise on how you can maintain your successful operation. As a business grows, finances can soon become complex. Without an accountant, it can be difficult to stay in control of debtors and creditors, on top of all legalities and compliance requirements, as well as running the business. Tax legislation is complex and ever-changing, making it difficult for a business owner to manage themselves. With an accountant, you can enjoy the peace-of-mind of knowing that your business is always compliant, and you are always making the most of any potential savings available.
Accountants save business owners much-needed cash every year. They can use their expertise and knowledge in allowable expenses and tax regulations to minimise the amount of tax businesses have to pay. A service that many good accountancy practices offer is helping you put a Virtual Finance Controller or Virtual Finance Director in place, even if it's just for a couple of hours each month. These are invaluable to a business, helping plan, track and monitor budgets to make savings.
The best part is that as well as dealing with all the issues listed above, having an accountant in place frees up time for you to focus on your business. Most small business owners are looking to save money and think they can’t afford an accountant. This may be true, but for many, it’s important to look at the bigger picture and consider just how much your own time is worth. It may be that it’s better to pay for a few hours of an accountants’ time and have the confidence it has been done correctly by experts, than spend 10 hours of your own time struggling over it – with the risk you’ve made errors.
About the author
Carl Reader is a highly-successful entrepreneur, heading up d&t, a multi-award winning, mid-tier accountancy firm, and co-founder of TaxGo, a disruptive fintech startup in the gig economy space. Carl is widely regarded as a leading business advisor and author, specialising in startups and small businesses and is in demand to speak internationally on a broad range of business and management subjects.