An Accountant is for Life
...Not Just For Filing Day
If you're treating your financial information as little more than a score sheet, you're missing out on the best of what it does for you.
Don't look now, but it's quite possible there's an accountant in your office.
No, don't turn and stare at it. We know you've probably never seen one up-close in daylight, but you'll only frighten it back into its burrow. Try to lure it out with some crunchy numbers to chew over. Win its trust and you'll have the most loyal and productive team member imaginable.
Accountancy is strange and unexplored terrain for many people, so it's little wonder so many keep their number-wizards at arm's length. They can survive just fine with minimal care and feeding, and they'll balance your books and process your figures into the bargain. The thing is, if that's all you're getting from them you're missing out badly. With a little attention, an accountant can quickly grow into your business' most powerful secret weapon.
Instead of locking your accountant away in its money-cave, consider building it a proper perch to roost in. With a bird's-eye view of your entire business, an accountant is the best early-warning system you could ever install. Any accountant can keep track of your clients, or calculate and chart your payroll, but the best-used ones can present you with a complete map your entire business and plot you the safest, surest course to long-term growth. Given the amount of information passing through your financial department, if all you're getting out of it are tidy books and regurgitated figures then we suggest you take a closer look and see if you've got an accountant at all. It's possible all you have in there's a parrot with a pocket calculator.
Essentially, there are just two ways to grow your profit: you can raise your prices or boost your productivity. Upping your prices is your easy-but-dangerous option, which is why so many businesses hurl themselves into that potential trap too quickly. Ramping up your productivity, on the other hand, is where your accountant could really shine.
It's not about fancy software and jargon-drenched strategy meetings. It's a question of taking the information at hand and turning it into something practical. Your output and efficiency are things that can be measured, and those measurements will give you a much fuller, clearer picture of your business' performance than a simple bean-counting mentality could ever offer.
You can start small by working out things like your "cost to serve" or "number of sales per employee". As you get comfortable working more closely with your accountant you can gradually increase the scope and complexity of the measurements you're taking - and start making better decisions based on them. Include your accountant in team meetings to help you spot inefficiencies or wastage. You'll be amazed at how much they can help in seeing obstructions or shortcuts in the road ahead. You'll be setting clear targets for your business, and you'll be hitting them more consistently.
Efficiency means a lot more than making painful cuts, and a great accountant is a creative, imaginative team player. You'll be kept up-to-date on government tax schemes or support grants you could apply for, and with the average R&D tax credit claim for an SME being worth £46,000, knowing how to navigate that landscape could mean all the difference to your business' prospects.
So keep your accountants in the loop, keep them informed and keep them involved. Most importantly, keep listening out for more Voices from the RIFT...