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How Accountants Can Help Improve Business Performance

Chart at a meetingThis article tries to draw attention to the role that accountants could play as business advisors within your business. Historically, accountants occupied the position of “bean-counters,” which essentially focused on what happened in the past, not on what the future of the business holds.

This has changed, and it’s important to understand the dynamics of how it works in today’s business context.

While there is a great deal of value that comes from applying accounting expertise to the historical viewpoint, such as that which comes with preparing tax returns and historical financial statements, it is clear that accountants can bring to the table a set of unique skills that go beyond simply working with historical numbers.

Aside from working with past data, accountants also possess skills that are exceptionally well-suited for analyzing what can be coming down the road in terms of financial activity in the future. In fact, it has been shown that accountants are well-equipped for assuming the role of financial advisor.

What this means is that accountants, equipped with their financially centered skill-set, have shown that they are in an excellent position to provide advice to the management team by identifying and negotiating financial challenges to the business’s future.

The following outlines identify opportunities being taken advantage of by accountants who occupy the role of financial advisor.

As NevadaSmallBusiness.com observes, there is value in having a knowledgeable authority in business accounting:

  1. A business accountant is an asset to business planning. If you aren’t a numbers person, a knowledgeable CPA can be your source for information on business planning and development.
  2. An advisor with accounting credentials can improve ineffective operational systems that cut company margins. Even if you show quarter-over-quarter growth for a few years, you might be “settling” by failing to recognize waste in the design of company procedures. 
  3. Your knowledgeable accountant can perform regular financial and economic evaluations to determine trend lines and other indicators of company growth. 
  4. Tax preparation and planning can save you money. A knowledgeable accountant may find deductions you missed, or may be able to help you avoid a costly, stressful audit by careful preparation of tax filings.
  5. An accountant can add value to a business in a variety of ways. An accountant is an excellent fit to fill in the financial blanks in everything from quarterly tax filings to cost projections for the upcoming quarter. An accountant can look at the company’s progress from a financial perspective – perhaps the only individual who is counting up avoidable expenses to improve ROI.
  6. An accountant can develop performance evaluations that get you back on track. You (owner) may think everything is fine, but your accountant can tell you the truth that lies in the numbers.

As this report notes, there are reasons why an accountant can open up some powerful benefits for your business and “flex the muscles” of your business by doing the following things:

1. Reduce Business Expenses.

By digging into a company’s accounts payable (AP), accounts receivable (AR), operations, and market costs, your accountant can propose savings on the costs of resources and other business operation expenses. With access to the raw data of your resources, production costs and deliverables, ask your accountant to audit whether cheaper materials will result in loss of quality for your products; they’ll present you with the data you need to make a final decision.

2. Manage Cash Flow.

Financial modelling and cash flow visualization/management are a core part of year-round accounting. Often used as a financial map to the future, ask your accountant to point out key timing and processes that can make a big difference in your bottom line, or prepare you for growth.

3. Leverage Financial Information for Business Strategy.

Your accountant isn’t there to take decision-making powers away from you – on the contrary, he or she actually provides stronger support, or in some cases a strong contrary point of view, for making near and mid-term business decisions. Given enough time and history, you may wish to task them with creating 5-year plan or forecast to use as a road map.

In addition, an accountant can do the following:

1. Test growth options with a break-even analysis.

Your accountant can help you set up budget and forecast reporting. Begin by setting up goals to achieve in the next 12 months, and use simple charts and graphs to see if your assumptions pan out. It doesn’t have to be complex reporting, and you can identify how you have done in previous periods (month over month, etc.) to make better growth decisions.

2. Help you find the key performance indicators in your business.

Start with a few key performance indicators, or KPIs, that really matter to your business type and build from there. If you’re in retail, you might use inventory turnover. In construction, it might be job costing.

3. Understand cash flow projections.

Create financial reports right out of your accounting software to help plan for what KPIs you would need to understand in order to manage cash flow. It is important to know how expanding product lines, increased direct costs, adding employees or a new location can impact cash flow so you can mitigate surprises.

4. Use industry benchmarks to compare your numbers.

A number of different subscription-based sources or financial benchmarking analysis tools are available and can be used to evaluate how they compare to other companies.

In conclusion, significant rewards are available if you, the owner, are willing to let your accountant exercise his or her skills as an advisor. Don’t let anxiety over power plays and “pecking order” fuel your decisions. Surrendering to f ear over who is “in charge” is suicide to the business.

Do you have the support you need to manage your small business bookkeeping? Schedule a 30-minute appointment to speak with a local small business adviser.

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