A good accountant can make an enormous difference to your financial results. Now, more than ever, an accountant who focuses on helping achieve your goals is essential for peak performance. How to make the most of value-based services and pricing with a tech-savvy business services accountant; this is meant as an outline for a starting point discussion for a successful working relationship.
These discussion questions are meant to establish a basis for a productive conversation that will help in negotiating the best service agreement with your new accountant. The responses are typically used by the accountant to develop a range of three service proposals from which you may then choose. Think of this as a standard level, enhanced level and elite level of service. This method of negotiating an accounting contract is generally believed to lead to a significantly higher level of service and satisfaction than the old-style hourly billing model.
1) What do you expect from your accountant, and how do you see your accountant helping you address challenges and opportunities?
2) If price were not an issue, what role would ideally you want your accountant to play in your business and personal finances?
3) What growth plans do you have?
4) Do you expect capital needs? New financing?
5) Do you anticipate any mergers, purchases, divestitures, change in owners or reorganizations in the near future?
Level of Service
6) What are the service standards you would like your accountant to provide? Is a service guarantee important?
7) How do you prefer to interact with your off-site accountant: telephone, text/email, video chat?
8) What do you consider rapid response to accounting and tax questions? How important is rapid response to you?
Making a Smooth Transition
9) If you are changing from another accounting firm, why? What did you enjoy about your former firm? What did you not like about your former firm that you do not want us to repeat?
10) Are you concerned about any particular items of your asset, liability or income statement accounts to which you want your accountant to pay particularly close attention?
11) How do you suggest that your accountant can best learn about your business to best relate your operations to the financial information and be more proactive in helping you maximize your business success?
12) What is your budget for this service? Is the budget realistic for the cost and value of this financial service?
It should be obvious that the better the communication on these topics, the better the new work relationship will begin. Also keep in mind that business arrangements change, so be sure to revisit this discussion from time to time to keep the arrangement with your accountant on the most productive track. My role is primarily to evaluate whether the budget is practical and possible or is likely to lead to problems. I often suggest breaking down and restructuring the project engagement plan when a partial budget is available.
These twelve questions are adapted from the Journal of Accountancy, but you may wish to customize and substitute your own topics of importance.