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Find a Real Time CPA for Small Business Success

By Jake Martin

3 min read

When choosing the right accountant or CPA for your Australian business, you’ll discover there are two primary types:

1. Redundant Data Accountants
2. Real Time Accountants

According to a recent survey of 428 business owners, 93 percent said they wanted a ‘Real Time Accountant.’ A CPA who is on the ‘front foot’ offering real time advice rather than offering advice late or not at all.

Accountants, whether certified or not, can add tremendous value to business owners if they have up-to-date numbers in front of them. It’s also about being proactive and not reactive. ‘Real Time Accountants’ behave differently and are significantly more client focused.

To find a ‘Real Time Accountant’ there are 8 traits to look for.

1. Is the first conversation about your situation and your goals?

If the first conversation is about your statutory compliance, filing, lodging or anything else that is a mandatory service, run away quick. If they open up with understanding you, your situation and your goals, then there is a good chance you’ve got an accountant who has a deep interest in you and your future.

2. Do they seem like they are reactive or proactive?

Most accountants are wired up to be reactive. It’s in their nature to react to situations when they happen often too late. A small group, however, are proactive. They are marketing orientated, they look to the future; they actively call you and are eager to serve.

3. Does this accountant offer business advisory services or mainly compliance services?

All you need to do is ask what percentage of their revenue is compliance based versus advisory based. If the vast majority of revenue is in compliance, then they are not ready to help you with services that truly make a difference. Ask them how they can help you with revenue growth, profit improvement, cashflow improvement, wealth creation and tax minimization. You’ll soon discover if you have a ‘Real Time’ CPA or accountant in front of you.

4. Do they offer to price your work up front in writing?

Most accountants don’t price projects up front because they typically charge by the hour in arrears and they are directly rewarded for how inefficient they are. This is good for them but not good for you. What you need is for your accountant to offer a fixed fee for every project (in writing) to remove all uncertainty and surprises. If they offer a monthly fixed fee, even better.

5. Do they have a communication schedule including free phone calls & meetings?

A dead giveaway that you have a ‘Redundant Data Accountant’ is when you ask them if they charge for phone calls, meetings and emails. If they do, then find someone else. Also ask them how often they will contact you. If they say ‘as needed’ (or something similar), then find someone else. The ones that are truly client focused have structured communication schedules and do not charge for phone calls, emails and meetings.

6. Do they follow up quickly?

The most dreaded words you can hear from an accountant’s mouth are ‘I’ll get back to you.’ It typically means there will be a long delay in coming up with your answer. A ‘Real Time’ CPA or accountant offers dates for follow up and quickly deals with your request.

7. Do they promote services that help you achieve your goals?

If they understand your current situation and your future goals, then the right Australian CPA or accountant should be matching services to help you achieve your desired objectives. How can they recommend something if they do not know your goals? The best accountants are always finding new services that offer more value to their clients.

8. Do they insist you are on a cloud accounting program?

Having a hard drive based accounting system is so last century. The only way an accountant can be real time is if they have real time data at their fingertips. With Internet-based (cloud) accounting technology they truly can be real time. If they do not insist you switch to a modern cloud accounting system, find one that does.

‘Real Time’ Accountants and CPAs do exist. Use these eight traits to find one. Don’t be afraid to interview a number of firms until you’re happy with who is in front of you.

Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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