Seven signs you and your accountant aren’t clicking

Feb. 12, 2018

This piece is presented by Cain Ellsworth & Company LLP.

A CPA should be a critical member of your business advisory team. The right person helps ease the isolation and loneliness many business owners feel, serving as a sounding board and trusted adviser.

But the relationship isn’t always an optimal one. And by catching warning signs like these, business owners can realize when it might be time to make a change.

You don’t feel the chemistry.

It’s a relationship, and it needs good chemistry like any other. If you don’t value the relationship, it might be time to look elsewhere.

“Some see a CPA as more of an expense than a value, so they’re hesitant to work at and build the relationship,” said Stacie Dykstra, director of business development at Cain Ellsworth. “You avoid them a bit. And if you’re working with the right people, you find you want to meet. You feel comfortable, and the other person seems open and transparent.”

You’re afraid to ask a question.

Some conversations with accountants might feel a bit uncomfortable, but it should be a healthy uncomfortable, Dykstra said.

“You shouldn’t feel nervous. You should never worry if your question is stupid,” she said.

They only talk about numbers.

If the only conversation between you and your accountant involves your tax return, it’s probably time to look for something broader-based, Dykstra said.

“Your tax return is a snapshot of where your company is at at a point in time. It’s a quick picture from a financial perspective. Your accountant also should be talking about your people, your customers, your vendors, in assisting with your financial needs. It’s critical to go beyond the numbers.”

You have no idea what the services will cost.

“There should be transparency in billing,” Dykstra said. “That should be explained up front: What you’re getting, what it will cost and how it could change along the way.”

There’s always an “elephant in the room.”

If each meeting you have with your accountant includes an “elephant in the room,” it’s time to reassess.

“A good adviser will not be afraid to tackle it, maybe in a kind, gentle way,” Dykstra said. “That’s part of our job. And to not walk away from some of those uncomfortable issues or questions because they won’t go away. They’re just going to get worse.”

The only thing keeping you together is you dread starting over.

Many people think moving accountants will be a colossal headache, Dykstra said. While the first year might take a little more time, the process can be very simple, she said.

“When we meet with a new client, we ask for three years of information. Sometimes we have to go back further if you’re looking at trends and doing an analysis, but in most cases we just ask for three years. You can get that very easily. Three years of tax returns and a current financial statement get you a long way.”

You worry.

That’s the biggest red flag of all, Dykstra said. If you’re worried about your adviser’s integrity, if you’re worried confidential information is being shared or if you’re worried their work is leaving you exposed to potential issues, it’s time to change.

“Your CPA should not put you in a position they could not successfully defend or at least argue effectively,” Dykstra said. “We tell our clients we want them to sleep well at night. You need to be able to look for opportunities, but your CPA should have a good feel for what’s acceptable.”

To learn more about the services provided by Cain Ellsworth or for a free initial consultation, give Stacie Dykstra a call at 605-610-4611 or email her at SDykstra@cainellsworth.com

Seven signs you and your accountant aren’t clicking

A CPA should be a critical member of your business advisory team. But the relationship isn’t always an optimal one. And by catching warning signs like these, business owners can realize when it might be time to make a change.

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