Many small business owners express frustration with their accountant and the accounting process in general. While discussing this issue with small business owners from all over Australia we found that the typical complaints are:

  • ”My accountant takes weeks to get back to me when I ask questions”;
  • “My accountant isn’t up-to-speed on new technology that could be saving me time”;
  • “I’m sure there is something more I could be doing to manage my business better or reduce tax but my accountant isn’t pro-active enough to teach me”;
  • “I gave my accountant all my information months ago and my work isn’t finished. I don’t even know if they’ve started!”;
  • “I don’t feel like my accountant really understands my business”;
  • “I only speak to my accountant once a year”.

Whether or not you’ve come to the conclusion that its time to change accountants or not if the list above sounds like your experience with your current accountant then its time to change!

Whatever the reason, the decision to change accountants can be difficult. You may have invested years into building a working relationship with them and the thought of changing can be daunting. However, if you’re enduring poor results and even worse customer service just to avoid the perceived hassle of changing accountants your business is stuck in a cycle that will ultimately cost of money.

What should your accountant be doing?

A great accountant focuses on using their skills, knowledge and experience to ensure that you and your business receive as much value as possible from your working relationship. Ways that accountants could do this (but typically don’t) are:

  • Regularly reviewing your business structuring to ensure they’re providing sufficient asset protection and are as tax effective as possible;
  • Keeping you up to date with new technology that can make business processes more efficient;
  • Provide you with insight and explanation of your business numbers to help you identify where your time is best spent;
  • Be a sounding board to bounce ideas off, bring a fresh perspective and insightful recommendations.
  • Allow you to benefit from the successes and failures they have witnessed while working with multiple businesses in your industry.

Comparing Accountants – its not always so obvious

Accountants vary greatly in regard to experience, skill sets and industry focus. Even a really good accountant may not be the right choice for your business if they lack the skills and knowledge required to properly service your specific business or industry. Having said that, not all industries require specialised advice.

When you’re looking for a new accountant its important to address points like:

  • How does the accountant work with you – face to face, virtual? Will this work for you?
  • How does the accountant run their own business? Does it look and sound like a great business?
  • Which software packages does the accountant work with and specialise in?
  • What are their qualifications and which professional associations are they part of?
  • What experience has the accountant had – is it in your industry or similar industries?
  • Does the accountant charge a fixed price or by the hour?
  • What services are included in the accountant’s price? Are these services too little or too much for your needs? Keeping in mind a good accountant could be aware of a need your business has that you may not have foreseen yet.

Ready to change Accountants?

Step 1 – Find your new accountant

You will need to find an alternative accountant. This is by far the most difficult step in the process. Try asking friends and family members which accountant they use or searching online for accountants that service your area.

Read the information and article on the accountant’s website. Do they sound like someone who has the knowledge and experience required to help your business? Does this information answer any or all of the questions outlined earlier?

Meet with the list of accountants you’re most interested in working with and discuss their proposed services and the benefits those services will offer you and your business.

In the end it’s all going to come down to who ‘feels’ right. Who you believe you can build a great working relationship with.

Step 2 – Make the change

It is always best if you let your previous accountant know the change is coming rather than leaving them to hear it from your new accountant first. This can be an uncomfortable conversation but given the time invested in the relationship over the years its only fair that the news comes from you.

A great way to approach the subject is to highlight that you believe your business needs have changed since your started working with them and that you have found an accountant who is in a position to better meet those needs. Feedback is also important, if you have had a bad experience with the accountant or their team it might be an opportunity for the accountant to improve their business and services if they receive constructive, first hand feedback.

Your new accountant should then make contact and provide your previous accountant with an “ethical clearance letter”. This is a standard industry practice when clients are transitioning between accounting professionals.

Prompt reply to this letter and forwarding of the information requested a requirement of both the major accounting professional bodies.

Working with Panic Atax

Panic Atax is an Accounting and Business Advisory firm specialising in building strong relationships with clients and removing the stress and hassle many small business owners experience around financial reporting, tax and cashflow management. If your looking for an accountant to build a great, long term working relationship with we’d love to hear from you.