Loyalty can be an admirable quality, but there are times when it’s just plain crazy. Take, for example, a new client of mine who was desperate for advice but was too scared to even contact his previous accountants for fear of receiving a big bill. These are the things you should expect from a great advisor.
1. Reasonable fees
Is your advisor passing on the savings from using new technology such as the cloud and live bank feeds? Have they helped you to get your books in top form so that it’s easy to prepare your annual financial statements?
While it’s not necessarily the best approach to go for the cheapest service, there’s no point in paying a lot more than you need to. Shop around, ask friends and business contacts, and select an adviser that matches you. For instance, it’s no use hiring an international firm if you’re a local small business.
2. Fixed fees
Does your advisor work on a fixed quote or charge you by the hour for as long as it takes? Nowadays a fixed quote is the norm, so why continue with old-fashioned hourly rates that only encourage inefficiency and feet-dragging where you take all the risk?
3. Free telephone and email advice
These days a good advisor will throw in free telephone and email advice so you can ask those important questions without fear of getting billed. This way, you won’t set off down the wrong track, wasting time and money or get caught out by the IRD.
4. Prompt responses
Receiving a late response or no response at all is one of the most common complaints about professionals. You email them and there’s no reply — what goes through your mind? Perhaps they didn’t receive the email? Are they interested? Wouldn’t it be good if they acknowledged you, even if they can’t deal with the issue there and then? How long do you have to wait for your annual statements? Do you only get them two days before the filing deadline when they’ve had your books for months?
5. Face-to-face time
Skype, emails and SMS messaging are great, but there’s nothing like meeting face-to-face, especially for getting to know someone, or, for example, training on accounting software. Even worse, does your adviser still send you long letters you don’t understand? Or ask you to sign stuff you haven’t got a clue about? A great advisor will have the time to come and see you and explain what everything means. During the meeting you can ask all those questions you’ve been wondering about!
6. Help with business and systems
Does your advisor just focus on annual financials or tax? Can they help you install a fantastic accounting software? What business experience does your advisor have? Can they help you collect your debts, obtain finance, plan for and reach your goals, monitor your KPIs or improve your profit? If they’re just history recorders or glorified bookkeepers, it’s time to move on!
The start of a new financial year is a fantastic time to get a new advisor, so stop making excuses and get out there and do it!