At Mostons we have an expression that sums up what we do, and that is “looking after people, businesses and business people”. The two key words here being “looking after”.
I believe that a good accountant provides the services expected from them in a timely manner, providing good value for money. This will lead to client loyalty, and from the accountant’s perspective, annually recurring work and fees.
After qualifying, my plan was to develop my career towards offering more to my clients. Too many practicing accountants limit themselves to year-end accounts, tax returns and once a year meetings with clients, if they are lucky. Summed up, this meeting would be – here are your accounts, here’s your tax return, and here’s my bill. In other words, sign, sign, pay and see you next year.
Of course, at Moston’s we do the compliance work too, but hopefully with more interaction. It is important to us that our clients fully understand what we have done for them. Today my working life is challenging and extremely fulfilling because, as a firm, we offer more and do more. We aim to offer more than help with tax returns; we are there for our clients whenever they need us.
For example, I hope that our clients don’t ever make decisions about their businesses without first wanting to speak to their accountant. These decisions might be as simple as how to buy their next car; to buy outright, through hire purchase or with a leasing scheme. Other decisions might be whether they should register for VAT, would they be better off as a limited company or sole trader, or what are the pros and cons of working from home.
I am heartened to see that recently more and more start-up businesses are coming to see me. There is certainly a greater level of optimism than ever before and each week I have been experiencing an increasing number of prospective clients seeking advice before setting up a new business.
The areas we generally cover are the status of the business, who will be the proprietors, how they will get their money out of the business and how to maximise the take home element while minimising the taxman’s cut. Other areas we tend to cover are the relationship with customers or clients, VAT, employing staff and creating or reviewing their business plan.
At this point my heart starts pumping and yes, I immediately think this is a spreadsheet waiting to happen! I often tell my clients that when they set off on a trip they know which route they will take and which roads or train lines they will avoid, and the moment they step over the threshold they know which way they are headed. Imagine then, starting a business not knowing what direction this will take. Planning the businesses route is critical to its success, although it is not always easy to know whether things will work out as expected, but what is it they say? “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.
With too many variables floating around it becomes a nightmare to accurately predict what shape the new venture might take. So why do this alone? Get help from a loved one, a respected friend or colleague, or alternatively your accountant. It’s highly likely that a great accountant will make you think of things about your business that you had not ever thought of before.
The first question I tend to ask is what is the objective? Are you building something of value for the long term or are you simply planning to generate an income. This is extremely important as it is impossible to support and guide a client unless you know and understand their objectives.
Then come the deeper discussions around customers, suppliers, marketing, place of work, accounting software, employing people, unexpected costs; the list goes on. The majority of new clients tend to ask me “what can I claim for expenses?” Of course I will guide them and give them an overview, but this is an absolute minefield and there are a huge number of legal cases and legislations that dictate which expenses are allowed and which are not. Very often common-sense and being realistic applies. New businesses should be focusing on building a revenue stream rather than worrying too much about whether the daily coffee is tax deductible.
I’m afraid I am firmly in the camp of believing that having too much tax to pay because profits are so high is a nice problem to have. This again is where the great accountant steps in and talks to his client before the end of the year, allowing for some “right side of the line” tax planning. Whilst there may be some opportunity to reduced tax after the event, it is more likely that this is better achieved during the financial year before you submit your tax return.
I am very lucky that throughout my career I have worked with a large number of businesses. I have worked and do work with UK-based agents among many other trades and professions. This variety is challenging but rewarding. With no two days the same, I manage to avoid the stereotypical view the world has created of the accountant. My clients and their prospective clients present challenges on a daily basis and I love it.
In today’s high-tech world with regular communication via email, Skype and through cloud-based accounting software, a great accountant will know exactly how you are doing throughout the year. Accountants are highly trained professionals with a wealth of knowledge and experience. How each accountant applies this is up to them. My plan is to continue to “look after people, businesses and business people”.
I have a wonderful support team here at Mostons. Collectively we have a wealth of knowledge and experience. For more information on everyone here at Mostons, please go our new website www.mostons.co.uk