What does a CPA do for you?
The “P” in CPA Should Stand for Proactive. What about the “C” and the “A”? Let’s start back a step. Do you even need a CPA, a Certified Public Accountant? Certified means that the person has completed a field of study that makes them specialists in their area. They have committed to their profession way beyond a bachelor’s degree. They must maintain their license through continuing education courses that ensure they are following the most current Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and adhering to all the IRS and state tax regulations.
There are still some things to look for beyond those basics. Whether it’s helping you understand your financial reports for your business or ensuring your personal financial situation is in good order, a good CPA will be proactive in every area. Below are some places where you can not only check them against your current CPA but also where you can use these points when seeking your first CPA or a new CPA in the event you’re not getting everything on this list.
Having monthly or quarterly meetings and actually talking through items on the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow analysis is one of the most beneficial things a proactive CPA does. The financial reports are a starting point for conversations that lead to solutions and help the CPA (and you) understand your personal beliefs and values, your business, and your end goals.
By analyzing these financials, you will gain clarity around cash flow, profit improvement, expense reduction, revenue enhancement, KPIs (key performance indicators), and handling tax liabilities, personnel, etc. The goal of regular (monthly or quarterly) meetings is to understand and manage these facets of your business beforehand, so you’re not always in a reactive, catching-up mode.
Every facet of your business affects your profitability and viability. For instance, if you have inventory and are operating on JIT (Just In Time) is it making it, or is it late and hindering your production or sales? Maybe you have slow movers that you need to buy less of and buy more fast movers. As we’ve discussed in this blogpost on cash flow, inventory affects your available cash. In general, a conscientious CPA will help you understand the big picture, that is, not only how to do your accounting but also best practices in your business. The “C” in CPA is for Conscientious.
Business Decision Making
The “Proactive” CPA provides financials in a timely matter. If the information is coming in two months after the fact, you are making decisions based on old data. Here’s why: every financial statement tells a story, and it’s the CPA’s job to tell that story to you, help you understand what is in there, and show you ways to make sound business decisions based on that information.
Personal Decision Making
Equally, suppose a business owner needs an estate or a trust. In that case, the CPA with pre-planning as a goal can help you make better decisions for your family, investments, and inheritance, with the aid of attorneys who specialize in those areas. They should not be solely focusing on your business, but should be focusing on how your business works in tandem with your personal needs and wants.
Training and Counseling
Your CPA firm should be keeping up to date with all of the evolving technologies and strategies. Outsourced staffing for expertise and report automation for efficiency can be useful given the economy’s uncertainties right now. It seems farfetched, but AI (Artificial Intelligence) has a place in accounting. And, here are some more ideas on how your accountant could help you “think different” (like Steve Jobs) about leveraging technology in your company.
Access to FREE Information
Is your CPA sharing an abundance of free information with you? Blogs, webinars, guides are all valuable sources of content. It shows that your CPA keeps up and stays on top of changing laws, regulations, and trends and passes along that knowledge.
Does your CPA (or the one you’re looking for) help their clients to grow their business? A proactive CPA should have a robust set of resources. When interviewing a CPA, ask if they meet regularly with “logical,” affiliated professionals to help their clients make sound business and personal financial decisions. For example, if their client needs a valuation, do they have access to someone in their immediate business network that could give them a valuation? It will be someone they actually know and trust, not someone they do a Google search to find.
What about sourcing someone to help you with an estate or a trust? Can you ask a CPA you’re considering if they would guide you in estate planning? Don’t you want your assets to go to the right people? When was the last time you reviewed your trust with your CPA and attorney? See our blog post for some more thoughts on estate planning. What about insurance? Some examples are professional liability insurance (doctors and dentists), earthquake insurance (in California), EPLI (Employee Practices Liability Insurance), and maybe general liability and environmental liability insurance. And on the personal side, Long Term Care Insurance or even health insurance. How much do you need? Should you self-insure?
You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s best to have a CPA in your back pocket who knows or can find someone who knows. And quickly! In that case, the “A” in CPA might also stand for Answers. Or maybe Advisor. It’s possible that you don’t even know what questions to ask! A first-rate CPA will help you with that because they are talking to their clients and the other CPAs in their firm. Together we know a lot.
Answers and Resources
So, your CPA must understand how your industry works. Still, it’s also important that they have resources and access to resources from those specific industries and related industries. What are the trends in any of the vendors’ or suppliers’ markets? Who are your CPA’s referral sources? Is your CPA meeting people? Are they networking with professionals who are also proactive, or are they on their own island? If you come to them with a non-CPA question, are they going to be able to get you the answer?
Little changes can reap significant benefits. Yes, the “P” in CPA does stand for “Public,” but the best way to assess your CPA or evaluate a new CPA might be to see how proactive they are. The idea is to keep you ahead of the things that are happening in your business every day. And it’s not just your business, because if you own a business, your personal balance sheet is equally important, including planning for your retirement, however soon that is.
Can you check all these boxes? Are you …
- Able to sleep at night?
- Making informed decisions?
- In control over the business?
- Paying the correct tax estimate amount?
- Feeling like your accountant is part of your team?
Every industry has professionals who go that extra mile. A dentist will help you prevent tooth decay and check for oral cancer. Your doctor should help you avoid sickness and schedule all the right diagnostic tests for your age. A good CPA will be your coach, helping you see what’s happening in your business ahead of time, if possible, so you can make the very best decisions. We found a synonym for proactive. It’s enthusiastic. If you find a proactive CPA, they’re likely enthusiastic about helping you be profitable and grow comfortably. And maybe think about finding a CPA where those letters are standing for Conscientious Proactive Advisor. Choose them.