Does Your CPA Really Know You? Ask Yourself 5 Questions

Date February 9, 2024
Authors Carl Greenaway

Each day I talk to business leaders about what they like best – and least – about their Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). The responses range from, “I won’t buy a mobile phone without checking with Mary,” to “Mark is okay, but he likes my rival football team and that’s unacceptable.”

Clearly, there are many factors that can solidify or dissolve a relationship with a trusted advisor such as your CPA. Some, while not preferred, are tolerable; others are absolute deal breakers. Still, the services of a CPA are crucial to the success of any company. That’s why you should ask yourself these five questions to determine if your CPA is meeting your needs, or it’s time to move on to someone else.

Does my CPA understand my business and industry?

As the business development manager of a “Top 50” accounting and wealth management firm, I hear the term “generalist” quite often. In the accounting world, the label applies to a professional with clients in multiple industries. Traditionally, a CPA’s role was to have a working knowledge of each of their clients’ industries. Today, top firms specialize in precise areas of focus to ensure they are experts in the tax laws that govern their clients’ industries. For example, if you own a construction company and the only construction company your CPA works with is your own, are you certain you are taking advantage of every potential tax benefit and functional process available to streamline and grow your operations?

Am I getting the value I deserve?

Value has different meanings for different people. Accounting value is leverageable by:

  • Knowing your CPA is always there when you have questions
  • Trusting your CPA is current with the ever-changing tax laws that govern business owners
  • Counting on your CPA to complete important tasks on time

Value is essentially whatever you perceive it to be. Knowing what is important to you and your business will help you identify problems when your expectations of value are not being met. Make sure you can define “value” when working with your CPA, who must be a trusted advisor to be effective.

Have I outgrown my CPA?

You likely have a good relationship with your CPA. He or she has been with you since the beginning, seen your kids grow up, been there through tough times and good. But does that alone ensure he or she is the best partner for your company today? Can he or she guide you through the complex scenarios your business faces? In many cases after a consultation with their CPA of so many years, a business owner realizes the CPA is not only overwhelmed by the company’s growth, but also ill-prepared to help the company capitalize on its success. This is a dangerous place for a business owner.

Am I receiving the level of service I have come to expect from my CPA?

Do you feel like every time you call, your CPA isn’t in, and it takes forever to get a return call? Are you only meeting with your CPA once a year to drop off your tax documents? Have you ever had to write an unexpectedly large check to the IRS without knowing in advance why you owed so much? Think about what services you believe are most valuable to you, then ask yourself, are you receiving the level of service that you expect from your current CPA?

Are accounting services the only services the firm offers?

In today’s world, accounting firms must take a holistic approach to providing added value and top-level financial services. Does Mike from XYZ Tax do your accounting, Mary from the bank your 401k, and Diane from ABC Investments a business succession plan? What if your business could work with one company in a single location for all that? When the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, you gain significant efficiencies. Can you afford to not have all of your trusted business advisors working together, sharing information, and strategizing about your best options?

Having a trusted advisor as your CPA is more than simply hiring someone who belongs to your club or likes the same sports teams you do. It’s about partnering with a reliable professional who is a specialist in your field of business and who will help guide you and your company to the next level of financial success and security.

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