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Level 7

"The Numbers Should Tell the Whole Story." Andrew Berg Shares His Tips for Picking the Right Account

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After a number of years in traditional accounting firms, Andrew Berg realized that his and his partner’s special blend of business management, effective bookkeeping and their ability to identify key areas for improvement was helping their clients grow their businesses in a big way. Deciding to start their own firm next was the obvious choice. 


andrew_berg.png.jpeg Andrew recently gave us some insight into how his business consulting and accounting services make a real difference to his clients — and how he teamed up with Mike Brown at Death Wish Coffee Company (our big winner in Small Business Big Game!) to give Mike's business an extra boost.
Name: Andrew Berg

Business: Berg Partners

Started: 2011

How did you create your awesome job?

My partner Megan and I have been working together for 13 years now. This is the third public accounting firm that we've worked at together. Before this, we were with a real estate company, helping them with project management and corporate development. 

We started out doing the same things that normal public accounting firms do — mostly taxes and a lot of emergency-based work. But we quickly found that we're different and we are uniquely able to help small businesses do better, in terms of giving the right advice and support our clients need to make sound business decisions.

At the end of 2011, we landed a big client on a consulting basis who wanted us to help them fix their business. It was then we decided to open our own firm to provide our special blend of services. We decided when we started the business that we didn’t want to work a million hours during tax season to provide our clients with one piece of paper, then walk away and not talk to them again for an entire year. So, our focus shifted to business management and consulting. 

We help our clients with financial decisions, marketing decisions, HR decisions, strategic decisions, budget, planning — literally anything you can think of that you don't know the answer to. If you want good advice based on your unique financial situation, we’re the people to talk to.

How do you communicate the value of what you offer to a small business owner who might be fairly bootstrapped financially?

What we normally suggest to our clients is that we begin with foundation-based work. That means that we take over their accounting, taxes and/or bookkeeping, depending on whether or not they need it. Once we're 100% sure that the numbers are being presented appropriately, we can tell the story to the client and offer advice on how to improve their situation.

In regards to affordability, our foundation-based services are not much different from what they're paying for a standard accountant. We’re providing more value by making sure that their information is right and that it tells the correct story. 

We're able to do that affordably by using a lot of different technology that saves us time on the back end. It’s our technology that makes us really efficient and allows us to do the above-and-beyond work our clients love. If we find a big issue and the client really wants us involved on a deeper level, they can choose to hire us on an "à la carte" basis to help them as an official consultant.

Our goal is always to pay for ourselves through helping the client save or make more money. We help businesses become more efficient in their pricing, or identify where they might not be meeting their margins. 

For example, if a client tells me that their margins are 35%, I'll tell them within three months whether they're right or wrong. If they're out by as little as one or two points, for a business that is bringing in $2 million in revenue, they could be losing $40,000 a year.

How did you guys connect with Mike Brown at Death Wish Coffee Company?

We actually connected with Mike over a beer! It was at the QuickBooks Connect conference, where we were listed as a Firm of the Future. Mike was one of the top three finalists in Small Business Big Game. 

We approached him to say congratulations and the conversation got more involved. He gave us his card and we told him a little bit about what we do and it turned out that he was really interested in the business advisory side of things. After the conference, he brought us on to help him improve his bookkeeping and start making number-based decisions for his company.andrewberg_2.jpg

What are the top three things a small business owner should ask you or another accounting firm to figure out if it's the right fit? 

I recommend asking lots of questions. Like they say in school, "no question is a dumb question." Invariably, people don't raise their hand because they're embarrassed, but there's no shame in learning how to improve your business. Ask as many questions as possible!

I think businesses should always get a second opinion on their bookkeeping. Collect reports from your bookkeeping software. If it tells you something else than what you expected, then there's a problem. Making sure your numbers tell the exact story is crucial. Don't be afraid to challenge your professional if you don't see the story that you expect.

I also recommend getting a second opinion on tax preparation, too. Businesses often receive a disservice when it comes to how their taxes are prepared. Some accountants do their customers' taxes as if it's just a one-off product. It's better to look at it as if it's the final piece of the puzzle, an entire year's worth of conversation and pro-activity and discussion about how the business is going to do. At the end of it, it had better say what you thought it would say. If not, you need to have a really good reason as to why.

If your accountant isn't telling you something about your business, then it's more than likely that they don't know as much about your business as they should. The numbers should tell the whole story. 

Often, it comes down to the money, when a business thinks they can't afford more than just basic services and an accountant wonders whether they're actually going to get paid. But that creates a contentious relationship that hurts small businesses. There needs to be trust in that relationship, otherwise you're not going to get what you need out of the service.

Do you have a story to share about what you've learned from your accountant, or how they've helped you improve your business?

If you have experience working with someone like Andrew to better understand the nuts and bolts of your business, we'd love to hear from you below.

Share your story in the comments!

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