How to choose the right accounting partner for your ambitious small business.

In the first article in this series I tried to make the case for why cloud accounting is cool in 2016. A tough ask many would say buy hey I’m up for a challenge! And in this article I’m going to show you that there are a small group of accountants out there who are doing some pretty cool things for their clients.

Now what concern is this to me you may well ask? Well, like many things in life when looking to answer the question of which accounting partner is right for your business there are a bewildering array of choices. This is particularly frustrating given it is such a fundamental decision in the future success of your business. It will be an ongoing and enduring (hopefully?) relationship so it is vital that you chose a partner who embraces working practices that gel with your business.

So if there was a way to more easily identify those type of accountants that would be useful information to know. Luckily, for those SME’s who value working with partners who are passionate about technology and have a forward looking approach, there is. The firms who are truly embracing cloud accounting are the much smaller pool where you should be selecting from.

So how do you recognise these firms? In our previous article I talked about how cloud accounting is helping small business not only survive, but thrive and grow in 2016. But let’s be clear on what cloud accounting is and why it helps because that helps you make the call to decide whether the accountants you need to work with should operate in the cloud.

What is Cloud Accounting?Xero Chilli Accounting

Fundamentally it is accounting services that are provided in an online or virtual environment. Xero and its add-on partners are obvious examples and there are others. Put another way, it is a bit like Internet Banking but for accounting.

What are the benefits of using an accounting partner that specialises in this model for your business?

  • Quicker access to your financial information

Cloud accounting software (used and managed correctly) gives you real time access to your financial data and reports like your P&L or cashflow statement. The traditional accountants use desktop software which means reports like these may only be available months after the end of the financial year. The cloud technology then lends a clear advantage to SME’s for questions around hiring staff or investing in kit for example, as these decisions can now be made with the support of the most up to date financial information possible.

  • More efficient processes

The best cloud accounting providers are focused on finding the most efficient way of getting your firms financial information produced. First they will need to understand your processes and then recommend technology solutions to improve them. If your accountant is not talking to you about this stuff they are firmly in the old school. Xero has the advantage of a range of add-on technology apps that massively improve processes like receipt management and customer payments.

  • Better response time

Cloud accountants are by their nature using the best technology solutions available in their industry. This carries over into the way they communicate. They will be utilising Skype, Live Chat and email in a way which makes same day response to queries the norm. The traditional accounting model will still be overly reliant on snail mail and telephone communication with substantially longer response times.

  • Meetings that suit yousmall business growth

The communication preferences referred to above lead on to the next benefit of using cloud accountants. Many of these firms hold meetings virtually, as opposed to in person. Obviously that is not everyone’s cup of tea but for many business owners the convenience factor of not having to disrupt their day by having to meet their accountant face to face is a massive bonus. Using Skype with screen sharing facilities these meetings can be seamless and cost effective, particularly if you have a relationship with your accountant that includes monthly or quarterly meetings.

  • Business advice and support not just a set of accounts

The best cloud accounting providers are also conscious that clients need additional value from their services. The technology and communication tools in their arsenal allow them to give SME’s quality business insight and analysis provided across regular meetings throughout the year. Many traditional accounting firms struggle to deliver this level of service as they are not leveraging the efficiencies that this technology provides.

  • The Paperless Relationship!

Sending documents via snail mail or having to drop papers off at your accountant’s offices should be a thing of the past. The technology benefits above allow ways of working which make paperless communication achievable now. Cloud accounting firms are uniquely positioned to provide this service. While it only one part of the relationship with you I believe operating in a paperless way is a statement of intent from your accountant about how committed they are towards maximising the efficiency gains that technology provides for their clients.

How do I choose the right accounting partner?

The benefits of cloud accounting are clear enough then. However, it is not for everyone and there will be many who prefer a more traditional approach.

For those who this does resonate with, there is also a watch out. There are a lot of accounting firms with Xero or other cloud type branding on their website who don’t fully embrace these principles. So if the accountant you are with or are considering hiring is not fully immersed in delivering the above benefits then they are more on the traditional side of the fence, no matter what the fancy branding might say. The benefits above are not optional for the progressive accounting firm of 2016, they must be something they live and breathe every day.

So for those who want a true cloud accounting partner then this makes the selection process more clear cut.

At Chilli the principles above are fundamental to our approach. However, don’t take our word for it. Let’s have a conversation and you tell us if we match up!