You can look at your accounting, tax, and consulting fees as overhead or as an investment. Many companies see these services as “keeping score” and satisfying the needs of taxing authorities, lenders, and bonding companies. But the true value of the relationship with your accounting firm lies in the opportunity to work together to tackle more value-added tasks.

It should come as no surprise that we view the relationship with an accounting firm as an investment that will help you advance your cause and increase the value of your company. But in fact, partnering with the right accounting firm should provide a greater opportunity to grow and prosper.

An effective accounting firm will have deep knowledge of your industry and your business. They will spend time with you discussing various business and tax strategies, opportunities for performance improvement, compensation and benefit issues, and risk mitigation. By creating a strong relationship with your firm, you will get an unbiased, independent perspective from a person who has experience working with other companies like yours. They can pass on things that have worked for others and try to prevent you from making mistakes that others have made.

Accounting firms come in all shapes and sizes and each have their strengths and shortcomings. It is important to determine your needs and desires as it relates to your accounting firm and then understand the vast differences associated with engaging different firms. There are large, international firms that are compliance-oriented, process-driven, and tend to work with larger Fortune 1000 corporations. At the other end of the spectrum are smaller, local accounting firms that generally are more tax-focused. Somewhere in the middle are regional firms like Kreischer Miller, which provide the deep skill set associated with national firms and the entrepreneurial spirit and service often associated with smaller firms.

All three types of firms serve their customers well. Your choice will depend on your needs and expectations—cost, service, tax advice, international capabilities, regular business counsel, etc.

Your expectations should be high for the time and money you will invest in this relationship. Your advisor should be a businessperson and a solution provider first, and an accountant second. They should care deeply about your company and provide both quantitative and qualitative benchmarking advice so you can see how you stack up to the best-run companies and to lay the groundwork for future successes.

Successful companies take maximum advantage of the relationships with their professional service advisors. The value of a partnership with an effective and forward-thinking accounting firm should not be overlooked.

Stephen W. Christian can be reached at Email or 215.441.4600.

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