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Business Accountants Are Not Just Number Crunchers!

Wayne Messick

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Because of their importance to business owners for their insights into virtually everything financial, accountants are no longer considered solely someone who oversees the bookkeeping. Most enlightened business owners consider their accountant's opinions on everything from tax issues, to financial planning, to their ultimate objective of total business and personal asset protection.

If your business accountant sees themselves as simply a tax adviser, someone immersed in the traditional technical accounting roles usually attached to their profession, that's fine for them, and for you too as long as they are conversant in issues more typically referred to a tax planning for the future and if they are part of a network of business accountants who offer these other vital services.

Business accountants, whether they specialize in tax preparation, tax controversy, or tax law - can not know everything you need them to know in order to provide you with the range of services required of a growing evolving business. The business accountants whose broad based education and experience allows them to understand when there are issues that are outside their areas of expertise, in other words they know what they don't know, and who are not so propriety in nature that they will let their clients suffer rather than referring them to a specialist - are the preferred professional for you on several levels.

For example if your accountant realizes that, through their questions and their understanding of you and your business, that your bookkeeping system needs upgrading - and they are willing to recommend a bookkeeping, your business is the beneficiary. Their reputation is at stake when the recommend the bookkeeping firm, so they will choose carefully on your behalf. And since the bookkeeping firm wants the business to keep coming in from several business accountants - they are more likely to treat your engagement more seriously than if you just dropped in off the street.

The same holds true of financial planners, insurance agents, lawyers, and other professionals recommended by your business accountant. It creates a win, win, win relationship between each party.

Many of the best business accountants, while they may have started out doing the write-up work typically associated with an accountant, filing taxes and other required forms to the state and federal government - have taken serious steps through continuing education in accounting and related fields.

Most do so to enhance both their understanding of the options and opportunities available to you and so they will recognize these options and opportunities earlier rather than later, so they can steer you toward the experts in these areas. For example becoming a Certified Financial Planner does not mean they want to dole out financial planning advice - it could mean they want to know more about the benefits available, to put dollars and sense in their discussion of the importance of their recommendations, so you'll be more proactive than reactive when it comes to financial matters.

So, if business accountants are becoming more well rounded as overall financial advisers for your business, where do you find one if you are not happy (or not sure you're happy) with the one you've got? How do you go about looking for a tax advisor and what's the benefit of beginning the search today rather than next week or next month?

The best place to start, as usual, is where you are right now. For example if the business accountants you know seem willing to have an open discussion about their areas of special interest and if they are interested in the team concept - where planners and advisers from several disciplines collaborate together on your behalf - I'd say you were half way there.

The other half really comes down to which of the business accountants you know or know of that you feel the most comfortable with. Let's face it, talking about the details of your business, why you have made the decisions you've made in the past, and what's important to you in the future - is not easy and you will only have those key strategic conversations over the long haul with people you are comfortable with.

And you can learn a lot by interviewing them. That's right, business accountants should be interviewed - just like you interview other professionals. It's interesting that you have never interviewed an accountant or lawyer - unlike your daughter's piano teacher, or your son's camp counselors or tennis coach.

If you do not interview perspective professionals - then you have to live with their results, and pay for their mistakes or decisions they make on your behalf without knowing you as well as they should when then are acting for you. And if you don't interview them you will never know if they are terminally afflicted with the NIH syndrome. The NIH syndrome will stifle the scope of knowledge available to you, cause you to miss opportunities, and live in fear that you are missing other important benefits available to business owners whose business accountants and other advisors are not infected by the NIH syndrome.

What is the NIH syndrome? It's the belief by your advisers that the only good ideas are theirs and anything “not invented here" is to be discounted and most likely discarded. Who becomes infected with the NIH syndrome and is it a symptom of other issues you should know about. In short, those infected with the NIH syndrome are so insecure of their past and present advice that they want to keep you away from others who might, with good reason, question that advice. They may offer suffer from severe financial proprietary disorder, a constant fear that if you talk to another adviser you may take your business elsewhere. Or they may be manifesting an advice-deity complex that assures them that they have all the answers.

Business accounts or other professional advisers who suffer from one or more of the variations of the NIH syndrome should be avoided at all cost, and if you already have one - get rid of them immediately.

Where can you look, today, to start the search and interview process that will help you select the best from a range of business accountants? Simple, call three successful business owners in you industry that are 20-50 miles away from you. Ask them if they are really really pleased with their business accountants and if so will they introduce you. If you live in a remote area you may have to ask that question of successful business owners that are not in your industry, but hopefully that won't be necessary.

When you interview the business accountants whose experiences are in the same industry as you are - they are likely to be conversant with the issues you and your peers face and no doubt will be able to recognize problems that you will face in the future and can do something about because they were brought to you by them in advance.

The savings, not only if fees for the time they would otherwise have to spend to learn about your industry, will come from the fact that someone else has already paid for the research that won't have to be done for you and they will be able to illustrate the costs and penalties they have experienced when people in your industry did not act proactively to head off these inevitable problems.

Business owners who think strategically, plan comprehensively, and execute flawlessly will almost certainly eclipse those who simply set goals and hope for the best. When these successful business owners interview business accountants one of their key objectives is to put together a team of professionals who can help them navigate the complicated nuances of existing and evolving tax laws.

If you want to be successful, you must put together a successful team of professionals to help you. Often the people who manage the progress of the team and its planning are the business accountants you have on board. Visit and contribute to the conversation based on your experiences as a business owner or as a business accountant.

Just like you, Wayne Messick is concerned about the continuous refinement of his strategies for productivity in these challenging times. He is the author of dozens of articles for mainstream businesses, emerging professionals and association executives and now in phase III of his career spends hours each week creating articles from his experiences.


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