There are well over 300,000 accountants working in the UK alone. While many of them are in-house resources in a variety of businesses, there are plenty of accountants out there working in practice providing a vital source of support and advice to SMEs.

An Oxford Economics report has this to say on the importance of this function:

“The accountancy profession plays a crucial enabling role in all types of commerce. The collection, analysis, and reporting of financial information underpins business decision-making and administration at all levels. And professionals who are proficient in this ‘language of business’ are a necessary ingredient of economic activity.“>

“No one feels the benefit of an accountant like a small business,” says chartered accountant Bobby Lane. “We act as interpreters for owners – making sense of the ‘language of business’ so that they can get down to the business of their business.”

But advances in technology have changed the playing field. Many of the accounting tasks that were previously carried out by accountants can now be completed internally, especially in the early stages. “As a business grows and the requirements grow, many businesses look to outsource those services to accountants,” says Bobby.

There’s a right time to use a specialist

If you’re a business owner, the right time to use an accountant is now. You don’t perform your own root canal – you head off to a dentist. You don’t rewire your own house – you call an electrician. And when it comes to your finances, the level of specialisation that you need comes in the form of an accountant.

Why? Because they’ve had the training, written the exam and got the t-shirt. Because they do it day in day out – this is their day job. Because they’ve got the right tools – they stay up to date with the software packages, regulations…everything. They’ve got connections, meaning that they can tell you where to turn whether you’re in need of cash, investors or a clever solution to whatever financial problem you have.

According to Bobby, even though it’s a good idea for a business to use an accountant, he doesn’t believe there’s a one-size-fits-all accounting solution. So, it’s the added value an accountant can offer the business that really counts.

Accountants provide a focus on finance

These days an accountant doesn’t only offer the usual accounting services. Their small business clients need them to be their advisor, mentor and coach. And – you’ve guessed it – one of the most critical spheres where this need arises is in finance.

“We work with clients to identify the best way of funding their working capital requirements,” explains Bobby. “Preparing detailed forecasts based on their business plans allows us to identify their cash requirements in the short, medium and longer term. We would then work with our broad contact base with the various providers of finance to introduce the most appropriate lender to the client.”

Translating what is on offer, how it works and helping clients think about the bigger picture is where the value of a knowledgeable accountant can’t be beat.

Bobby says that many owners are uncomfortable talking about or looking at areas of their business that they don’t understand. “It is vital that their accountants work with them to explain how to solve their issues and what can be done.”

Fashioning the future

As the traditional accountant has already morphed from pure number-cruncher to advisor, is there more transformation for the profession on the horizon?

According to Bobby, “The future role of the accountant will be more advisory than compliance as the clients of the future look to their professional advisors as the extension of their management team.”

And you can’t ignore technology when you’re talking changes to come. Technology is an enabler that allows business owners to research, source and find the best solution for the business. Bobby suspects that it will speed up routine processing and allow businesses to focus their time on adding value.

Six ways your accounting specialist can come to your rescue

When you’re up to your eyeballs in the business of your business, remember that your accountant just might be the specialist you should turn to for that extra bit of help. This is where they can really add value:

  1. Plainly explaining your financial statements so that you can understand the ins and outs of your business.
  2. Giving you advice on your tax obligations and making the process of staying on top of your tax easier.
  3. Taking care of your payroll and payment processes.
  4. Doing your financial reports at the end of the year.
  5. Putting together financial forecasts so you can make good decisions for your business.
  6. Giving you insights into your cash flow, inventory management, pricing and financing so that you can decide, fully informed, how to grow your business.