Accountants…fantastic? Maybe I should allow myself less than one sip of Sauvignon Blanc per paragraph! No, it’s not Marlborough’s finest going to my head, I really do believe that a good accountant is vital for the success of any small business.
And yes, I know I go on about accountants a bit, so I promise not to devote this whole blog to the subject. What I really want to raise in today’s message is the importance of a whole suite of good advisors for small businesses, and as it happens, accountants are a part of that suite.
Going back a few weeks I wrote about small business partnerships, and the fact that I’m not a huge fan of them. Okay, ‘not a huge fan’ might be something of an understatement, and if you want to read the whole story, you can see it . But while I may not be keen on small business partnerships, I am a firm advocate of small business advisors. A partner is one thing, but an expert advisor is, in my opinion, an altogether better and more attractive prospect.
Surrounding yourself with great staff is a start, but having good people you can go to for advice in times of need is absolutely vital. Dedicated expertise, objectivity and impartiality can make all the difference in the running of a small business, especially when as the owner/manager it can be so difficult to ‘see the woods for the trees’ as it were. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the type of advisors who, in my experience, you simply can’t do without.
Yes, yes, I know, here we are looking at bean counters again. But good accountants really are integral to small business success. They might be a tad on the strange side with their undying love of numbers and their enduring need to wear ties, but when they repeatedly make good calls that save your business money, you just want to hug them.
A dud accountant can lose you money in the short term as well as the long term. A good one can save you tens of thousands. For instance, when I changed accountants around five years ago, one of the first things my new guy did was save me $80,000 in payroll tax. $80k. Wow. My previous accountant simply had my payroll structured wrongly. One change, one tweak, and I’m 80 grand better off.
Another example is that of one of our clients who faced union troubles a few months back. With the union issues sorted, she became aware that she’d been overpaying superannuation to her staff…for the past decade! Her accountant had set everything up wrongly right from the start, simply because he didn’t know his arse from his elbow. On one hand, he didn’t charge much, but the flipside is that his actions cost our client a boatload of cash. A classic case of paying peanuts and getting monkeys! Happily, my client has worked through all of this trouble and has since turned her business around…in fact she was speaking with me only recently about just how confidence-inspiring it is to have the right advisors working on your business.
From accountants to solicitors…I can imagine that by now you must be thinking ‘he’s just opened a second bottle!’ And trust me, I can see the irony, as one of my favourite jokes has always been ‘How do you know if a solicitor is lying? You can see his lips moving!’ But all jokes aside, just about every small business will find themselves needing a good solicitor at one point or another. I work quite closely with mine, mostly in areas such as document preparation. Much like an accountant, but working in their own specialist area, a skilled solicitor can save you loads of money in the right circumstances, and guessing your way through legalities is a very poor substitute for expert legal help. If you don’t already have one, speak to some small business owners you know and trust, and get some recommendations – don’t be tempted to go it alone.
Most of the time having a financier will mean dealing with a bank, and if you’ve read more than a few of my blogs you’ll be aware that I’d rather see my dentist for root canal work than deal with one of ‘the big four’ banks. Simply put, they are a necessary evil, a source of money, which is the lifeblood of small business. So…before you step into one of banking’s dens of iniquity, be sure that you have your business looking as good as possible. Have all your ducks in a row to give yourself the best possible chance of obtaining the right finance; this is where accountants and solicitors can help! It should go without saying that you should never deal with just one bank, and always keep Mark Twain’s wise quote in mind – ‘A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it starts to rain.’ If you haven’t seen an example of this sort of behavior yet, stay in business long enough and I assure you that you will.
One of the many reasons I don’t believe in business partnerships is that I don’t like splitting profits. However, I like to think I’m a good listener, and some would say I’m also something of a sponge. I try to soak up stories of both disaster and success, and learn from both. While I’m not completely comfortable with the term ‘mentor’, I certainly keep a handful of successful business people around me that I listen to, taking their advice on board. Call them ‘business friends’ if you like. They’re not paid advisors - unless you count coffees and lunches – but I learn some amazing things from these people, both in terms of what to do and what not to do.
With a decent amount of business experience under my belt, I realise that these people have my best interests at heart, but when I consult with business friends I’m still my own man. So I make my own decisions and then live with them, no matter what’s been discussed. I know that I don’t know everything and I know that being cocky gets you nowhere, so despite the fact that the guys I talk with still have fax numbers on their business cards and possibly think LinkedIn is an online dating service, they are wise men whose advice I really value, and they play an important role in my business.
So there you have it. Accountants, solicitors, financiers and business friends or mentors. Do all you can to ensure that you have at least one really good example of each of these on your side, because they really can make all the difference. Oh, and finally, if any of these advisors won’t take your call or just return your call in the same business day…find a new one! There’s no room in the land of small business for people who can’t offer a same day response.
All the best for your week in business, and if you’re bucking the small business owner trend and actually having Anzac Day off, have a relaxing and enjoyable break.
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