“What? I need to tell them?”
Your accountant is there to help you, so YES it really is good to tell your accountant a lot about your business. As I work with entrepreneurs, I find that as time goes on they talk to me much more.
Well, most of them. But … the real truth … getting information from some clients is still difficult.
So, let’s lay out both sides: why you may not want to tell your accountant a lot . . . and why your accountant wants you to tell them a lot.
Client’s View: “they’ll judge me”
If you hire a good accountant, their priority is to help you and not judge you. But somewhere along the line, you may have had an accountant be dismissive or just not helpful. But just like doctors, dentists, salespeople, cleaners, web designers, lawyers, plumbers, realtors, etc. there are good and bad. And good accountants . . . can help!
I believe in being a strong business accountant who helps clients. But there is a difference between being strong, doing your job, being assertive . . . and judging and trashing your client. If you have an accountant that you don’t want to tell business issues to because you think they are going to roll their eyes and judge you, you may want to re-think if this is the right accountant for you.
Now for sure, I am not talking about an accountant looking stunned and even rolling their eyes when you explain something that you want to do that is illegal. That’s a different story. I am talking about times an accountant should assure you they are there to help and not judge when
- you feel uneasy because you are struggling with an issue
- you don’t know how to make your accounting system better
- you want to understand your numbers better
Accountants can put judgments aside
When I go in to a meeting with a client, I am personable, but I also put on my “accountant’s hat”. This means that I am focused on the client’s work — I am there to help and not judge what clients know and don’t know about accounting. Accountants are there to roll up our sleeves and help you — either answering your questions or doing the accounting work for you.
Do you have an accountant who puts judgement aside and is there to help you? A test: if you say to an accountant “I’m embarrassed” or “Don’t judge me” or “I don’t know a lot about accounting, I may not say it correctly”, their response should assure you that judging you is not their focus.
There are good accountants that can put judging aside. Get an accountant that you feel you can tell all your financial information to.
P.S. We as accountants have probably “heard and seen it before”. We’ve seen the good and the messy. So, if you have a good accountant, you shouldn’t have to worry about being judged.
Accountant’s View: “I don’t know what I don’t know”
This is a common phrase. The accountant’s version is “I Can’t Book What I Don’t Know”. This means, I can’t book — record the transaction in your accounting software — if I don’t know that you have it.
Information really helps!
Most of us accountants have asked our clients for information . . . and asked . . . and asked. The reality is if you tell us information upfront, we can be more efficient.
Recently, I worked through 18 months of clean-up work for a client. As I worked through the “one” checking account, I found entries I didn’t understand. I then went back to my client and asked, “are you sure you didn’t have a second checking account?” The client then told me there was a second checking account that was later closed. There was much more work to do and it would have helped if I was told upfront.
Sometimes it seems like we are putting together a jigsaw puzzle instead of doing accounting. Sure, we can do it. But, it is a lot more efficient if clients give us information upfront.
We already know a lot about you – help make it easier
I tell my clients: “The longer I am your accountant, the more I know about you and your business. I may know some things you friends don’t even know. But, my knowledge is for your benefit.”
So, understand we are working hard for our clients. We are trying to pull information together efficiently to help clients run their business better. The more information we get upfront, the more efficient we can be.
P.S. What do accountants want to know? At minimum, anything that affects your business financially. Yes, we want to know if you purchase a new vehicle and get a loan. We want to know if you just bought lot of personal items through your business. We want to know if you changed bank accounts. The list goes on. But at minimum, if it’s financial, tell us.
Entrepreneurs have a tough road. It may seem that work never ends. And sometimes the accounting gets messy.
Entrepreneurs many times are thinking: “I will wait to think about my accounting because it’s too messy and too time-consuming; plus, accountants will judge me”. Accountants are thinking: “We can help but please give us more information upfront”.
But we both have the same goal: to help you have better financial reports so you can make better business decisions. Good accountants are there to help. (If you need an accountant, check out my post on choosing an accountant). There is hope to fix accounting messes and simplify.