SME business owners often complain about their accountant. Grumbling about their service with comments like:
But like all opinions there’s two sides... so for another perspective here’s the accountant’s side of this story.
Aren’t SME business owners just making excuses and finding someone else to blame for their own shortcomings?
In an email survey done by Peter Carruthers in South Africa there were some interesting comments that SME accountants made about their clients... and from my experience many are universally true.
Don’t ask us to risk disbarment. Our career (and lifetime income) is worth more than your short-term cash flow challenge.
This knowledge is valuable so pretend that we are like your doctor who charges each time you visit. Just because we are paid to do your accounting, we do not provide free tax consulting.
Every claim and every tax deduction needs proof. We may believe you but If you can't prove it with paper, we can't prove it to the tax authority.
Don’t bring us your work at the last minute and expect instant service. We have clients ahead of you in the queue. Many of whom pay us without complaint. And some who actually pay us on time.
Our job is to match your 12-month-old pile of paper to meet the onerous tax authority needs. We don’t do your financial planning, AKA fortune telling.
To pay your suppliers on time you need to get payment from your clients on time this will ensure you have enough cash ready when the government sends its bills.
That’s why you run your own business and make all that money. It’s your job to do enough planning and bookkeeping to achieve this.
A reminder: bookkeeping is what you do to keep your paperwork in order. Like keeping track of invoices (in and out) and cash flows (in and out).
... before you throw it in a box. That way you see issues before they're a looming crisis. At the very least, reconcile your bank statement every month.
... ask first. Before you act. And tell us everything. It takes time to consider all your angles. Expect to pay for this time as we don't provide free business resuscitation services after you’ve done the damage.
If you want a warm relationship, get a dog. Please treat your dog better than you treat us. We also don’t do imagination. Tax authorities don’t like creative and you don’t pay us enough to risk you getting an audit.
You are not a government! This means that your business won’t survive if more cash goes out than comes in. Nobody cares if you're unprofitable. But miss one payment and the world notices. Survival means getting the cash in faster than paying the cash out.
We don’t make the rules and spend years learning to adjust to each new government foible. And then swathes of time afterwards. Our job is to keep them off your back. We know how violently you'll complain when you get audited.
Or vice versa. That complicates our work. It demands more resources. That means a bigger bill. The simple solution is either stop complaining or start doing it right.
If you want to own your own business you should know what rules define the game. The government defines those rules. Lots of rules, which keep changing. Many of those rules have nothing to do with accounting.
We invest time and money staying current with our profession and its rules. You should read a newspaper, newsletter or whatever you need to stay current with yours.
A better understanding of each other’s positions will go a long way to creating a more productive relationship. Appreciating that this is a relationship with expectations and obligations on both sides.
With the hope that it helps:
The SME business owner and the accountant will then have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities... with less griping about each other!
Passionate about helping small and medium size businesses achieve success - building SMB's success. Helping SMB owners find their path to financial and personal freedom. Every day a learner... inspired by the ever-changing world around us.