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Is your accountant giving the help you need?

 19 July 2020     Donald Cooper 

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a ‘cranky corner’ blog. But now’s the perfect time. I’m cranky about certain things. It could be my age or it might be that, like you, some things just tick me off. This time I’m ‘cranky’ about accounting firms who promise to take their clients ‘beyond the numbers’ to make better business decisions but then don’t deliver.

Many accounting firms promise they’ll go ‘beyond the numbers’ to help entrepreneurs such as those reading these words make better business decisions. Their accounting associations run ads promising the same thing. But my years of experience with the owners of small and medium size businesses is very different. What they get from their outside accountants is a set of financial statements and an invoice – that’s it.

Let me be clear. There are some truly wonderful accounting firms out there serving small and medium size businesses. But they’re few and far between.

While delivering a Management Boot Camp in Fort McMurray, Alberta a while back, I worked with a young couple whose business is customizing and accessorizing pick-up trucks for folks who work in the oil and gas industry. Since just about everyone in Fort McMurray drives a pick-up truck, this should be a profitable business. But it isn’t and hasn’t been for seven years.

When I looked at their financial statements, I immediately saw they are paying over $280,000 a year in rent for second rate industrial space on the edge of town. That’s over $60 a square foot, which crazy high. But that’s Fort McMurray – take it or leave it.

With rent that high, there’s no amount of business this couple could do that will to make a profit for them.  They are working their tails off and going nowhere. They told me similar industrial space in Grande Prairie, Alberta, also a resource town, was about $10 a square foot.

So, here’s the question: “where the heck has their accountant been for the past seven years?” Yes, they use an outside accounting firm for their accounting and year-end financial statements. But these accountants have never sat down with this hard-working young couple to review and explain the numbers and help them with some sound business decisions. Shame on them!

Recently, I spent an hour on the phone with a couple in New Brunswick who bought a 16-room country inn six years ago and it’s been a money pit ever since. There is no way this thing can make money and they too have an accountant who hasn’t done his or her job of working with them to make good business decisions. In fact, both their accountant and their bank manager should have recommend against this investment in the first place.

Another client I’m trying to help has been technically bankrupt for the past three years. It has no chance of a recovery and their outside accounting firm has said absolutely nothing. Two large banks lent this lady over $200,000 to start the business, which had zero chance of success from day one. They’ll never get a penny of that money back and my client has lost everything.

This makes me really cranky! But here’s the rub: a very sharp accounting friend of mine (who does think like a business person) confessed to me recently, “Accountants are trained to format financial information according to an accepted set of accounting guidelines and not to make helpful business recommendations.  Some of them are also capable tax advisors, but most of them are not businesspeople. Just because they can count money doesn’t mean they know how to make money.”

That was a breakthrough for me. Maybe we, as businesspeople, are expecting something from our outside accountants they’re simply not trained or ‘wired’ to deliver. Then, I thought back to when I spent a day with 18 managers and partners with one of these accounting firms. There were only three of that group of 18 who had the business or life experience to effectively advise anyone. Imagine a 24-year-old client manager, who has never been in business, advising a 70-year business owner on a tax-effective exit strategy, a succession plan and the sale of the business, including complex family estate issues.

Several accounts have suggested to me every accountant should take my Management Boot Camp so they can deliver the clear insight their clients need. I’m up for that, if anyone wants to help make it happen.

In the meantime, are you getting the help and advice your accounting firm promised or are you just getting financial statements and an invoice? If they can deliver the advice you need, demand it. If they can’t, where will you go for the bottom-line business insight you need? Perhaps we should talk! 

Here is something else to think about:
The countries with the most cases of corona virus (COVID-19) are the United States, Brazil, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy and France. The leaders of all these countries are men. The countries that have best managed the virus are Germany, Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Denmark. These countries are all lead by women. I rest my case.

Times are tough for most folks these days. So, to quote a special friend of mine, ‘If you see someone without a smile, give them yours!”

 Cheryl Cran (nextmapping.com), a friend who is a well-known speaker and business coach recently reported 70% of companies do not have ‘future-ready talent’. My newly updated business tool, Evaluate your Talent Pipeline will help your business or department get ‘future ready’. To access it at no charge, click here

Stay calm, live brilliantly and do at least three important or kind things each day!


Sealy Canada
Cocoon by Sealy
This HGO article was written by:
Donald Cooper
Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability.


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