1. Business

Finding a Good Accountant

If you’re familiar with right brain vs left brain, then you know that we’re all heavier on one side than the other. And, regardless of information over the last few years that seems to challenge some aspects of the concept, I still believe in it and went through the analysis process at Polaroid many years ago.

Polaroid brought in a left brain – right brain expert. They then put the managers in the marketing department and a group of engineers from the design group through testing to determine where we each of us fell in the range for either side of the brain. Last on the program was for all of us to meet.

Each of us was assigned to an engineer and our job was to come up with a new product. We quickly learned we needed both left and right side brain strengths to come up with a concept, rough design and then implementation.

So, the short version is your right brain is responsible for your creativity, while your left brain is operational. Most people are dominant in one or the other. Engineers are typically more left brain than right – analytical and into how things work. Photographers are artists – creative and hate having to deal with the analytical and operational side of the business.

I know I’m summarizing, but this isn’t a post on left brain – right brain. However, it is about respecting your need to balance out both sides of your brain with the support most of you need for left brain actions – like accounting!

Mary Marantz shared this post this past March and it’s perfect – eight things all of you need to focus on when you’re looking for an accountant. What I love most is that she’s giving you a complete game plan – not just what your accountant should do, but how you both should be interacting.

Every year I’m amazed at how many artists have no idea whether or not they really made money until they meet with their accountants at tax time! It’s October and as this year comes to a close, you’ve got plenty of time to prepare for 2019 and make the year a success with a minimum of financial surprises.

Justin & Mary Marantz

For years, we were using what I’m going to call a “reactive” accountant, in that it felt like we would do all the work and he would just react to whatever we put right in front of him. No more, no less. There was no proactive effort from him on our behalf. In other words, he wasn’t fighting for us or our business at all. He was just a numbers guy. And you could tell his heart wasn’t really in it.

Then we found Lisa (thanks to an amazing recommendation from our friend Alicia)… and let me tell you, it changed everything. I literally cried when we found her. Both from relief and because I realized for the first time what we hadn’t had in our business for the years before. That’s because she really CARES about us and our business.

You can sit down with her one time and tell that everything she does is driven by heart and by a strong WHY that she believes in. And like everything else that starts with Why, it makes all the difference in her work.

For Lisa, it isn’t just one meeting come March or April. She works with us ALL year leading up to tax time, to make sure that we’re on track and making adjustments as we need to. She actually came down to our home & met with us last August for the taxes we’re about to file now because she could tell that the business was growing rapidly and we needed to make adjustments to account for that. How amazing is that??

After working with her for several years, we now know how an accountant SHOULD treat you. And since we didn’t know what we were missing out on for years, we wanted to make a list of some things to look for in an accountant so you guys are finding the best person to take care of you too! Here goes.

  1. Your accountant should specialize in small business. As a group, small business owners get the short end of the stick when it comes to taxes. Not only do we have federal & state income tax, but we also get charged a (really hefty) penalty just for the luxury of being self-employed. Those self-employment taxes can be even more than income tax, which is crazy to me. Here we are trying to create a business, create commerce, contribute to the economy and we’re penalized for our entrepreneurial spirit. This makes me really cranky. So it’s really crucial that your account stays constantly up to date on every change in the tax code that affects small business, so he or she can get the best result for you possible.
  2. Your accountant should do your bookkeeping. Or work directly with someone who does. Our accountant now does all of our bookkeeping through the year which means that come tax time there is no confusion and no learning curve as she tries to figure out what someone else did. So the taxes go a LOT faster. It also means that she can track how we’re doing throughout the year so she can tell us if we’re on track for where we want to be or not.
  3. Your accountant should be proactive. Your accountant should be actively invested in how you’re doing. Ours does this in a couple of ways. 1) she doesn’t just react to how we’ve set things up, she gives amazing recommendations for simple changes we could make that would go to work for us SO much more and 2) she will not only look at just the numbers & the end result…she’ll go the extra step to give us the analysis to say “ok, so this type of workshop is actually more profitable than this one” or “hey you guys should really get some more money in your SEP (self-employed pension) because your expenses/deductions are down.”
  4. Your accountant should meet with you throughout the year.I’m not saying it has to be every month (but ours does check in with our monthly profit & loss statements), but your accountant should be checking in with you before the end of the taxable year to make sure you’re on track for where you need to be before the year ends.
  5. Your accountant should set up your estimated tax payments. Whether that’s monthly or quarterly, your accountant should be helping you come up with a plan to pay in throughout the year so you aren’t getting slammed come tax time.
  6. Your accountant should manage sales tax payments for you. The sales tax law is also constantly changing and our accountant goes to regular seminars to make sure she’s staying as up on it as possible so that we’re paying the right amounts. She will also prepare those returns & file them for us.
  7. Your accountant should speak in normal language. Our old accountant used to only ever speak to us in “tax speak”….it was a constant stream of forms, numbers and letters. And I left every meeting SO stressed out. But just the way that we would never speak to our couples in terms of apertures, shutter speeds or ISO, you want an accountant who is super technical on the inside and knows her STUFF, but can talk like a normal person on the outside when she’s talking to you!
  8. Your accountant should care about you. Our accountant told us she was really proud of us this year. And again I cried. Because I’m just SO thankful that we found someone who is fighting for us and our business like she cares about it. Because she actually does. Oh and it also doesn’t hurt that she gives us M&M’s when we meet with her! 🙂 That’s the way to really show you care!

We hope that helps give you some ideas for what to look for in an accountant!