Whether you’re running a growth business, or a lifestyle business, it’s important that every owner keeps a tight rein on its company finances.
But why would you want the hassle of doing this yourself?
If the looming threat of the taxman isn’t enough to give you sleepless nights, then perhaps the fact that over half (51%) of SMEs think they pay too much in tax might. Or maybe the fact that the admin tasks that sap the most time are tax accounting (19%) and payroll (18%).
Appointing an accountant is the smart choice, freeing you up to spend time on the areas where you add value to your business.
While accountants are ranked as the #1 most important professional to a business the harsh reality is:
- 70% of small businesses would not recommend their accountant.
- 27% are looking to switch to a new accountant.
- 34% actively tell people to avoid their accountant.
When asked what small businesses seek in an accountant, the top 3 things are:
- Trusted adviser (78%)
- Responds quickly (74%)
- Understands my business/industry (74%)
Hardly earth-shattering requests and yet clearly many accountants are getting it very, VERY wrong.
So with that in mind, I’d like you to introduce you to one accountant getting it right. Meet Martin…
Martin runs Gold Stag Accounts, an accountancy practice that specialises in small business accounts for sole traders and limited companies.
In June 2019 I appointed Martin as my accountant. During this time, he’s helped me make the transition to Ltd., completing all the necessary paperwork and keeping me on the right side of the taxman. He was also my ‘trademark buddy’ as we went through the process together for our respective businesses, and he’s been there to support me with 101 business-related questions on a daily basis.
Here I spend 5 minutes talking to him about his business…
What do you do for your clients?
Really simply, I do accountancy for freelancers and small businesses.
About 20% of my clients are in need of help once a year for something like self-assessment. And the remainder are ongoing relationships where I help with everything from payroll to end of year accounts and VAT returns.
A lot of people think of accountants as being human calculators and that we’re all really geeky but I’m breaking the mould!
The last thing you want is to be worrying about accounts so I try and make it as simple as possible, ensuring each client knows exactly what needs doing and why. And then just generally being there whenever they need me – I have clients ask me all sorts of questions beyond finance.
For me, the line is where I can’t add any value – if I know I can help, I’m more than happy to.
Who do you help?
Right now I’m focussed on freelancers and small businesses, currently helping about 150 clients. I used to have some really big companies on the books but I let them go because they created too much stress, it became work I really didn’t enjoy and I didn’t feel like I was adding much value.
Smaller companies are more fun to work with, and easier too. Plus you’re really helping people to make a success of their business by answering the questions that make a difference day-to-day.
What do your clients say they value most about your service?
Having recently run a customer survey I can confidently say it’s the personal service.
90% of my clients said that the thing they value most is that they only deal with me and the fact I’m really responsive to queries.
I think it helps that I’m a small business myself. Because I don’t have a team behind me, it means that when they contact me they’re going to talk to me. And I’m not confined to office hours, so if someone emails me in the evening, 9 times out of 10 I’m going to respond there and then, rather than make them wait.
When is the best time for a new client to contact you?
It genuinely doesn’t matter. I have new clients approach me when they’re just starting out, are halfway through the year and after year end has passed – in any case I can pick up the accounts and do whatever needs to be done.
And I can do as much or as little as the client needs help with. As I said before, I have some people who only want help completing their self-assessment, and at the other end of the scale I have people who want to outsource everything because they want reassurance that the taxman isn’t going to come knocking on their door.
If you’ve never used an accountant before, my advice would be that as soon as you start feeling like you’re in over your head, it’s best to get some help.
And if you have an accountant right now, it’s important to look out for the red flags. Receiving a penalty from HMRC is a huge red flag, and yet I’ve seen freelancers complaining about it on the social forums.
Also, communication is important. If you ever feel like you don’t know your financial position, for example, whether you’ve filed the appropriate accounts or documentation with HMRC or Companies House, it’s a sign to be wary. Even if you outsource everything to your accountant, they should still be informing you of what they’re doing and why, and providing reassurance that you and your company remain compliant.
If you’re looking for an accountant, my advice would be to:
- Check out their qualifications so you at least know they’re capable of doing what they say they can do.
- Look at online reviews – if someone’s only got a 2-star rating on Google you want to know why.
- Ask for a referral – this is your money we’re talking about so you need to find someone you can trust, and someone who understands what your business needs.
If you are tied to an accountant at the moment, it’s really easy to switch and appoint someone new. It can be done any time and your new accountant should take care of everything for you.
How do you like to work with your clients?
It starts with that initial email and then we have a discovery call/chat/email so I know what services they might need.
When they agree to go ahead, I’ll send them a signup link for a portal, which will have my terms and conditions and a letter of engagement for them to sign. We’ll also use this portal as a safe space to share documents they need to sign for HMRC or Companies House.
And then everything else is done remotely. Of course it’s nice to meet people face-to-face, but I haven’t met about 60% of my clients because everything is done over email/phone.
I don’t want to be that nagging accountant, so I don’t pester people for information. When we’re coming up to important deadlines I’ll send the odd reminder of things they might want to be thinking about before year end, or a list of documents I need to complete their returns, but otherwise I’m simply there whenever my clients want me.
Because my clients’ year ends are spread throughout the year, there’s never a mad rush, the workload is constant.
And I take the attitude that we should get everything completed as early as possible. I used to be with colleagues who would work until midnight on the 31 January to hit the self-assessment deadline. I don’t want to be that person – as a rule I’m always in the pub at 4pm on deadline day!
What’s the best way for someone to contact you?
Through Calendly because it’s always up-to-date with my availability, and people can choose whether they want to schedule a phone call, video call or face-to-face meeting.
Alternatively, you can email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website: www.goldstagaccounts.co.uk
Follow me on Twitter: @goldstagaccount
-  Source: http://www.waspbarcode.co.uk/small-business-report-accounting
-  Source: https://www.accountex.co.uk/insight/2019/11/20/accounting-survey/
-  Source: https://www.accountancydaily.co/majority-smes-unhappy-their-accountant
-  Source: https://www.accountingtoday.com/list/a-small-business-barometer-for-2019