If you’re a small business owner who hires an outside accountant, you’re probably one of their many clients. These accountants spend hours reviewing books, crunching numbers, filing tax forms, and helping small businesses keep their companies afloat.
While this might sound great for the businesses, that’s not always the case for the accountants. Not all accounting clients are created equal—and whether they know it or not, some customers are making life difficult for their accountants.
You can help out your accountant and grow your business by practicing a few healthy habits. Here’s what your accountant wants to tell you but can’t.
1. You Aren’t Their Only Client
Unless you hire someone to work for you in-house, you’re most likely not the accountant’s only client. Accountants—especially within a CPA firm—are juggling your account along with a dozen others while also taking meetings and dealing with frequent law changes. They can’t always drop what they’re doing to tend to your immediate needs.
Most accountants do a good job of allocating their time across their book of businesses, and many are quick to respond to clients—but that speed obviously comes with limitations. If you’ve reached out to your accountant about a budgeting issue, tax question, or other financial need, know that they’re trying to answer you as soon as they can.
Not only do accountants work on other clients, but they also eat lunch and have personal lives. While your accountant may not tell you to relax, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to. Accountants are just like any other business that has multiple clients: they have to prioritize them and deal with each issue accordingly.
While you can submit accounting requests and ask for rush responses, it’s important to remain patient and understand that they’re dealing with you and many other clients.
2. Accounting Is Based on Dedicated Formulas
There’s a scene from The Office where Michael Scott is talking with an accountant about the detriment of his low pricing strategy—“the lowest in town.” Michael doesn’t agree with the accountant’s analysis and asks him to “crunch the numbers again.” Without missing a beat, the accountant sarcastically says “crunch” as he simply hits the enter key again.
While you may not like the analysis or numbers that your accountant provides, that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Similarly, accountants cannot—legally—help you “discover” money or turn your failing business into a thriving one.
Accounting is a systematic craft that follows several formulas and processes to reach its conclusions. Asking your accountant to “re-crunch the numbers” won’t change the result or improve your financial situation. Most accountants are happy to walk you through these formulas so you can better understand the process—but at the end of the day, the numbers are the numbers.
3. Good Organization and Communication Go a Long Way
Your accountant isn’t privy to the goings-on within your business. If you forget to record an expense or aren’t clear about certain charges, then your accountant can’t record them accurately. If you want to speed up the accounting process, keep your book organized (and categorized) and explain any ambiguity so that your accounting team knows what’s happening.
4. Tax Season Starts in October
The time to reach out to your accountant for tax help isn’t in February or March but rather toward the end of the year. Ask what kinds of documents you need to gather and how you can start closing your books. If you have your accounts in order for Q1–Q3, then you—and your accountant—will be less stressed when it comes time to prepare your annual taxes.
5. They Want You to Ask Questions
Your accountant is not a magician—they won’t refuse to share their secrets and hide their processes behind a wall of smoke and mirrors. If they do, you may want to reconsider that accountant.
Good accountants want clients to ask questions and are happy to explain and discuss financial topics. They want you to understand their recommendations and analysis because it will ultimately make their jobs easier in the long run.
While you might be an expert in your industry, you are probably not one in accounting. That’s OK—you’re paying an accountant to be. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to gain more insight into accounting and business finance, however. Don’t be afraid to ask your accountant for more clarity or explanation about a topic or line item that seems confusing.
Become a Client Your Accountant Loves
You don’t need to have a finance degree to impress your accountant each month. Instead, take an interest in what they do and how they protect your money. Not only will you be more informed about the financial state of your business—you can also provide better documents that save both parties time and stress.