Not everything that counts can be counted, and vice versa.
Accountants’ numerical skills are important, but this alone doesn’t make them great business advisors. Numbers come to life and influence business decision-making when they’re available in real-time and presented in a way that enables us to identify and explain the likely impact of particular actions – or inaction – and translate the financial information into plain English to help spot opportunities and manage risk.
But being good with numbers is just one part of it. To be a good advisor for business we also need to be passionate about your growth and development, recommend the best tools for your decision-making, and provide the right advice at the right time for the right purpose.
A problem though, assessment of your business advisor's ‘passion’, ‘best tools’ and ‘right advice’ can be a bit subjective.
Therefore, here are some useful questions to ask for a more objective view of the value your accountant/advisor is adding to your business:
- Do they behave like a stakeholder in your business? In other words, does it seem like they have skin in your game; are they on the front foot in identifying opportunities and threats to “their” investment.
- Do you feel you have the benefit of an advisory board? Few businesses have a formal or advisory board at their disposal; an accountant should be able to bring that sort of 360-degree perspective.
- Are they thinking about your future as much as your present? Future scenario planning is ultimately more important that historical record keeping, and it’s your accountant/advisor’s role to keep at least one eye on the future.
- Are they playing to your personal strengths? Doing so requires a good understanding of you as a person, your motivations, your goals, and an honest, upfront relationship.
- Do they help you know how you stand, in relative terms? It’s one thing to know how you’re doing within your business, but it’s just as important to have a sense of your competitive (relative) performance. In working with a range of businesses in a range of sectors, your accountant/advisor is in an ideal position to help benchmark your performance and highlight the impact of small incremental changes in key areas to help you work smarter.
- Have they embraced technology? And do they utilise it to help you manage your financial affairs in real time?