How to build a working relationship with your accountant

While it might seem like accountants should be the ones in charge of maintaining relationships with their clients, it benefits business owners to be proactive about relationship building as well. Why? Because most accountants are under-utilised

Most founders and business leaders know that they can approach their accountants for tax advice, but few realise that accountants can offer so much more. Accountants have accrued a wealth of knowledge from their experience handling many a small business’ finances. They’ve seen the business landscape in Singapore through its ups and downs and have observed how economic conditions have shaped businesses for the better or worse. Rather than just working for you, an accountant can work with you to achieve your goals—whether that’s better cash flow management, cost reductions, or compliance improvement.

A small business will experience cash flow issues at least once in its lifetime. Those that are just starting out might have an especially tumultuous journey ahead of them. It pays to build a relationship with your accountant. We’re going to share some tips on how to achieve a positive, constructive working arrangement.

Benefits of a good client-accountant relationship 

Typical founders and business leaders are good at coming up with ideas and selling them. But when it comes to finances, it may be a completely different story—especially for first-time entrepreneurs.

Most small and medium enterprises (SMEs) outsource their finance and compliance duties to a third-party accounting service. A lot are satisfied with the service if they can safely meet all the reporting deadlines and ensure they don’t rack up penalties for non-compliance with rules and regulations. 

Still: though leaving your accounting and finances in someone else’s hands can help you razor-focus on your business, it’s also risky. 

Running out of money is one of the biggest risks that founders face. Many founders fly blind without regular financial reporting. Without this, they may not know how much funds they need on a day-to-day basis, and don’t have a clear idea of how much revenue is being generated and how those numbers paint a picture of the overall health and longevity of their business. That disconnect can be disastrous if sustained over a long period. 

That’s when building a relationship with your accountant comes in handy. If you hire an experienced accountant right from the start of your business, they can add financial projections, choose an accounting software, and provide other analyses. This in itself will give you an idea of the revenue you targets you should be hitting and when. 

While you could certainly purchase these tools yourself, punch in the numbers, and produce the same charts, interpreting those numbers is something that can be done better by an expert.

After all, accounting isn’t just a science—it’s an art! The same rules don’t apply to every situation, and an experienced accountant with good intuition is much more helpful than a human calculator. By tapping into an accountant’s expertise, founders also pick up best practices when it comes to proper accounting and financial planning.

Our working relationship with our clients

Cultivating this sort of relationship with clients is something that we take very seriously here in Harvest Accounting. We don’t stop at taking over our clients’ spreadsheets: we also take the time to learn about their company’s goals and long-term visions. From there, we develop a plan to deliver as many benefits as possible, in line with these aspirations.

As a digital-first company, we believe that digitalisation is the present and the future, so we help all our clients start their digitalisation journey if they haven’t already. The first step is to migrate all their historical information into an accounting platform called Xero so they never have to mislabel an Excel spreadsheet ever again. 

We also help them choose the right technologies to run their business—which is harder than you might think. 

Choosing the wrong digital tool can do more harm than good in many ways. Implementing a tool takes time and money. That’s another reason why getting to know our clients’ business is so important. By understanding their workflow and operational preferences, we can recommend the right tools from the start.

For example—for our clients with distributed teams, we implemented a phone application called Receipt Bank for submitting expense reports. This eases operational accounting processes for them, making it easier to ensure everyone is paid their allowances on time. Meanwhile, our e-commerce clients tend to have inventory issues, so for them we recommend an inventory management software called Stock and Buy. Both of these applications can be integrated with Xero to save time and make finance management as simple as possible. 

We are entrepreneurs too!

Harvest accounting is also a small business, founded and bootstrapped by two young founders with a passion for where accounting meets tech. We can identify and empathise with other small business owners. We have the same fears and excitement about the future. 

We’re passionate about helping our clients succeed. We love working with passionate small business owners and enjoy catching up for a coffee or meal to grow as friends and not just clients. A good working relationship with your accountant helps you unlock myriad financial opportunities and delivers benefits you may never have considered.

What does a good relationship with an accountant look like? 

The key to building a relationship is open communication between the founder and the accountant—lots of it. Some traditional accounting firms only sit down with their clients during the financial year-end and tax-filing season. You can imagine how difficult it would be to build a close relationship that way—it’s like that surface-level yearly gathering with uncles and aunties, where they always ask, “Are you married yet?”

We prefer to offer monthly reporting as a standard service. That way, we’ll be kept in the loop of how the business is going. In our run-through of the monthly reports, we highlight the numbers that would be important to that client and share insights unique to their business. The information we share isn’t a templated report—it’s customised based on their needs and preferences.

Lastly, trust and openness to each other’s wishes is integral. While accountants have the financial knowledge to advise founders, it’s up to the founder to follow that advice or not and execute. 

If there’s a little bit of decision-making friction between founder and accountant, these are common in authentic relationships. It shows that you are both invested in success and able to speak your minds because of the trust you’ve established.  

Now, a good client-accountant relationship won’t look the same for everybody—that’s just how it looks for our firm. If you prefer to collaborate with your accountant on a bi-monthly or even a weekly basis, then that’s something that can be arranged so long as there’s open communication about your working relationship.  

Just like romantic relationships, finding the right accountant requires some dating around 

There are tons of accounting services out there, and it’s hard to know what you’ll get until you’ve taken them out on a date. But there are a few key things to look out for: 

  • Relevant experiences and certifications
  • Digitalised and secure bookkeeping
  • Location and flexibility of services
  • Service-oriented and human-centric approach

For more detailed tips on how to pick the right accounting partner, you can check out an article we’ve written on the topic here.

Just remember that it takes time to build a relationship, and trust is key in working with a partner for the long-term. Good accountants are hard to come by, so if you’re not happy with a service, you don’t have to live with it. There are other accounting services out there that can meet your needs—that is, if you believe in the concept of “finding the one”.  

Finding the right one ain’t easy… 

…but it’s not impossible, either! 

We’ve automated all of the most tedious processes through our cloud software, Xero, so we have the time of day to listen to you and all your financial wins and woes. Let’s solve these problems together. Get in touch with us here.

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