Thinking of starting a business, but not sure what you need to know? Begin your journey here with my basic guide to business start-ups. In my role as Editor for The Business Show and Business Startup, I have talked with literally thousands of business owners and entrepreneurs about what they really need to know, not what a business guru thinks they need to know. This series is the result. In the course of your business, you will need to work with – or rely on – any number of third parties. These will vary, depending on your type of business and your own experience, but the next few parts of this series deal with the most common, starting with accountants.
Your accountant can be as involved with your business as you want. They can just formalise your basic bookkeeping, or you can appoint them as an ‘agent’ to deal with your tax affairs, submit your VAT returns and deal with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on your behalf. They can also offer financial advice and help manage your growth. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to choose your accountant before you start your business, because they’ll be able to help you get the structure of your business right from the start, including your business plan.
When it comes to choosing your accountant, they should be qualified with one of the main accountancy bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), the Institute of Chartered Accountants (either ICAEW or ICAS) or the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). If you’re a small business and you would like regular contact and input, you might be better going for a smaller firm, rather than one that specialises in multi-nationals. An SME accountant is more likely to specialise in the kind of accounts issues that are common to smaller firms. They’re also likely to charge less and give more direct access to more experienced partners than a larger firm.
Negotiating fixed fees means you won’t get any surprises when an hourly rate bill arrives. It’s prudent to ask what cover is in place for when they’re not in the office and whether they have access to specialist advisors. Some practices are happy to take your money for the minimum effort, but a good accountant will want to speak to you regularly, not just at year-end. Finally, it’s worth finding one that you get on with. True, you’re hiring them for their abilities, not their personality, but you could end up working closely with them and life will be much easier all round if you can relate to one another.
Do they need to be local? Not necessarily. True, it makes it easier to drop off a brown envelope of expenses and receipts, but in this interconnected world of the internet, a scanner plus recorded delivery goes a long way to removing the need for local representation. Would you rather have a specialist in your sector at the end of the phone, or a friendly face you can visit when you need to? There’s no right or wrong to this, but it’s something you should think about.
If you find the series – or any of the articles in it – useful, please share them via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog. I’d really appreciate it, thanks. If you need professional copywriting for anything from your first business plan to marketing collateral and press releases, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to find out how I could help your business.