Choosing an accountant can be difficult. Cutting through technical jargon and marketing hype is a daunting process to any business owner.
So we have a list of questions you can use to interview and compare between accountants.
- What tax leadership roles in the profession have you done in the last 12 months?
Every accountant will say they are “good” at tax. However you need somebody great at tax.
When your accountant is truly great at tax, and can deliver value with tax advice, they will have proven leadership roles within the tax community. So look for an accountant with speaking or leadership roles within either The Tax Institute, The Law Society of WA, Chartered Accountants Australia or CPA Australia.
Simply answering “we are big” doesn’t answer the question. It just indicates how many bodies sit next to the accountant you are talking with. Your accountant you are talking should be respected among peers.
At Westcourt – both partners have leadership and keynote speaking experience with The Tax Institute that has arisen in the last 12 months.
- How can you demonstrate your commitment to family owned businesses?
Simply saying “I like this type of business” is not enough. You run the risk of getting a sales pitch dreamt up on the spot.
An accountant, who has a deep understanding of business families and family business will be able to give you tangible evidence of qualifications and study that is purely directed at family businesses.
At Westcourt we are Accredited Family Business Advisors. We understand that there is a unique element to family business advising and we have invested resources to give great advice.
- Is your advice completely and totally independent or is your advice conflicted?
This can be a tricky question. And the short answer is that you want a short answer – “yes” or “no”. If the answer is longer than “yes” then it is most likely a “no” – the advisor is somehow conflicted and their advice might be tainted.
And it can be difficult to trust tainted advice.
So yes. Westcourt is independent. Yes. Westcourt never gives conflicted advice.
- Have you ever started a business?
How entrepreneurial is your potential accountant if they never had a go at starting a business? You want advice based on experience – not a text book.
At Westcourt we started this business. So we understand what it is really like.
- What external business mentors do you use to help you in your business?
If your accountant is a business advisor they must think a business advisor is helpful.
So do they have one?
If the accountant does not have a paid external business advisor – do they think a business advisor adds no value. What does that say about their business advice?
Westcourt has two business advisors – The Executive Connection and SJD Advisory.
- What is the ratio of tax value to fees generated in your business?
This will throw a few accountants. But many accountants championing non-financial KPI’s for their clients or a value focus. So can they demonstrate a KPI in their business that is both client focused and value focussed?
And at Westcourt the ratio is 6:1 – for every $1 in fees generated we have saved $6 in tax.
Sadly many “cheap” accountants we have seen ultimately cost their clients life changing amounts of money. So value is critical.
- How many different accounting firms have you and your fellow partners worked at in the last 20 years?
If you want a relationship that will last decades (or even 2 years!) you are entitled to know how committed your potential accountant is to the current practice. You do not want to be travelling from firm to firm chasing your accountant.
Sadly many firms have a “revolving door” of directors and partners. It is quite amazing.
At Westcourt the partners have worked in the business for 20 years and 18 years respectively.
- How do you build into the practice a process to track your client goals?
It should all be about you. And an accounting business who is committed to helping clients should build in a process to track how they are going. It should not be left to chance with a “we care” mentality.
At Westcourt we interview each client yearly to see how they are going. And we benchmark their progress.
Leaving your needs and goals to chance is simply wrong.
- How often do you run client educational seminars?
An accounting firm should care about helping clients. And the number of structured educational seminars are a great way to see how much a firm will really care about helping their clients.
We run 90 minutes seminars weekly for $34. We forward plan them a year in advance so business families send the kids, themselves and their own staff to benefit.
- If I look overseas to invest and grow how will you help me with local laws?
Overseas tax laws are complex. And many of our business family clients are increasingly looking offshore to invest and do business.
You do not want to be stuck in a country getting poor advice that is not connected to your current position.
If a firm is committed to helping families grow they can assist clients overseas with local knowledge.
At Westcourt we are part of Geneva Group International. So if you need land tax advice in Melbourne, employment advice in the Philippines or estate planning advice for a London holiday home – we have local experts we can reach out to and help you.