“What else do I need to know?”
At the end of a meeting, I’m often asked if there’s anything else they need to know. A totally valid question – but also one that can take hours to answer.
Equally, I go to the physio and don’t know what to ask. “Why does my knee hurt” is the only question I know to ask – in the same was a someone rocking into an accountants office only knows to ask “how much tax do I need to pay?”.
At the same time, there are thousands of articles on Google, with unlimited advice from well-meaning friends. Yet so little applies to your unique situation. So little covers the exact question you didn’t know to ask.
So it ends up feeling like searching for something in the dark (right?). We want the right advice, but don’t quite know the right questions to ask. We’re fumbling around hunting for something, but don’t quite know where (or how) to look.
So, here’s a starting point you can use with your accountant or advisor.
1. Drawings or Wages?
This is about how you pay yourself as the business owner, how you build up a rainy-day fund in the business, or how you pay yourself a dividend for the risk and investment you’ve got in your business.
It could though also be about budgeting, how you manage your family finances or how you manage provisional tax.
2. What have you learned lately?
It’s naff, and a little Brené Brown, but you’ve only got one life so learn from the experience of others.
Your accountant or advisor should be constantly learning – from both their own growth and from working with other business owners. So, pick their brains. See what they’re into. Pick up what they’re putting down. Be curious.
3. How can I better manage my taxes?
This comes down to two things. (1) Paying what you legally need to, without paying more than you should, and (2) managing the tax payments as easily as possible.
So, it’s restructuring your lending to reduce tax. It’s how you own your motor vehicles. It’s where your assets are held. It’s also managing the ups and downs in cashflow to take the tax hits out. Equally though, it could be about getting through Christmas shutdowns or quiet periods. Explore and see where the conversation goes.
4. What's happening in my cashflow?
To be honest, this is a bit of a test. Do they understand cashflow in the first place (shhhh, the secret is that many accountants don’t).
It’s about getting to a conversation on the things which keep you awake at night. Cashflow can show that you’ve got a backlog of work which could keep you awake, increased turnover shows you’re pumped which could keep you awake. Whatever it is, it’s hiding in your cashflow conversation.
5. How else could we work together?
This is partly a sales opportunity for your accountant or advisor – see how they sell, and what you could apply in your business. It’s also though an opportunity to get more help for you and your business.
Once they’ve sold you, question them. Get to the depth of how the thing they’re selling will shift you forward. This isn’t about being difficult in the sale, it’s about practicing asking better questions.
6. How would you run my business?
This is twofold. Firstly, do they understand your business in the first place. And then secondly what insight do they have. Their answers might be confronting, awkward, or you might just disagree. That’s okay – that’s the point.
7. How are you working with your most successful clients?
The answer might be shorter yet frequent discussions, or longer more detailed conversations. Whatever it is, if you find out how the best do their thing you’ll have a chance to emulate, change or build on what you’re doing now
These are the starting points for a conversation. You might end up on a total tangent – that’s where the interest lies. So, what was the half question which came out while you were asking these questions?
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