Mind your own business!
There is so much more to being an accountant than simply ‘knowing your numbers’ and getting the books to add up. You see, I run a business too. I employ staff and have to deal with issues like holidays, sick days, legislation, motivation and occasionally a little bit of ‘keeping in line’. I need to maintain the balance between doing the work that keeps my customers profitable and looking after my own bottom line. It is also down to me to ensure that a continual stream of new prospects and clients are always coming into the business. So I do know how you feel!
Then there are all of the other issues that business owners face. Procurement, premises, legal requirements and restrictions, training and qualifications, maintaining quality, ticking this box and checking that one. The list and the responsibility that comes with running a business is extensive, ongoing and often arduous. That is why your accountant should be so much more than the numbers man!
A problem shared is a problem…
I don’t actually believe the old saying that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ because sometimes sharing is nothing more that a shifting of the burden. But I do believe, in fact I know it to be true, that getting advice from people who understand your position is invaluable. I also know that gathering good people around you in your business will make the difference between carrying the weight of the responsibility alone and getting the support you need.
Of course the numbers are important and without controlling costs, managing cash flow, smart tax planning, wise investments and the many strategic ‘ninja’ tricks that great accountants specialise in many businesses couldn’t get by. But it is the way you manage everything else that can make running a business remain more of a pleasurable achievement than a demanding job.
Who are the right people?
It is impossible for you to do everything yourself (effectively) and yet, as the business owner, even when you allocate various tasks the ultimate responsibility will always come back to rest at your door. So there are two key elements to getting the right people involved in your business, whether they are employees or your external network of contacts, outsourcers and advisors. Trust and Accountability!
Because you understand that it all comes back to you, it is important that you do trust the people that you employ or lean on from time to time. But, while trust can grow over time (almost to the point of certainty) it can only take you so far. You would be very well advised to install a backup plan or a failsafe of some sort – just in case. The problem with people (with the best will in the world) is that we are all only human.
Having said that, trust is paramount, and it is worth investing your time and effort in acquiring a strong network of internal and external people who have proved themselves worthy of yours.
But, while good relationships (even friendships) with those associated with your business are vital, it is important to keep a level of professionalism so that ownership and accountability can be established. These concepts may sound like opposing ideas, and perhaps that is why so many find it difficult to work them out or get them to add up.
That is why I believe that an accountant’s role is such a vital one – Trust and accountability!