As winter has faded from our minds and spring has finally arrived, we find ourselves embracing the warmer weather and starting to enjoy time with family and friends in the outdoors. Just as we are cleaning out our yards and starting to think about new plants and gardens, we still must face the annual ritual of filing our taxes. Have you taken as much time to evaluate your relationship with your CPA as you have with your gardener?
Most business owners get very comfortable with their CPAs as the years go on. This professional relationship often began as soon as you became a dental practice owner, if not earlier in your career. The person you selected to be your CPA often is a college or high school friend, or a referral from a trusted dentist friend. It does not matter how the relationship got started; what is important as time goes on is, how often do you evaluate the relationship, what services are you getting from your CPA, and how often do you look at the big picture of your dental practice and evaluate how your business is performing? Is your CPA delivering his or her services on time and with regularity? Are you confident that this person can grow with you?
If you can answer a resounding yes to most of these questions, then I would say your relationship is on solid ground. However, if you hesitated in answering yes to any of these questions, then it may be time for you to investigate and consider replacing your current CPA. Here are some critical business tips for you to consider as you contemplate making a change:
Dental-specific. Does your current CPA work with dentists? I would hope you are not the only dentist on their client roster, nor the first. Are they a dental-specific CPA firm?
Advising and coaching. Many CPAs just talk to you when they have bad news. Do you ever receive a phone call to help educate you on your financial statements? Do you even understand what is included in your financial statements? Boutique, specialized CPA firms will have coaching calls with their clients to help them better understand their business and educate them on key dental practice metrics.
Speak my language. Does your CPA know how to translate the symptoms identified in your practice numbers into a treatment plan for your business? Do they make suggestions to improve your overall financial health, or do they just file paperwork to the IRS for you?
Communication. What are your expectations on regular communication with your CPA? For example, do you feel comfortable calling your CPA for basic advice on how a new loan will impact your tax picture? Are you worried about the cost of a phone call to your CPA? How does your CPA bill you for your interactions?
Bookkeeping. How is your monthly bookkeeping being handled? Is your dental practice bookkeeping being done by one of your team members, your spouse, or even you? Or is it being handled by a trained accountant at the CPA firm?
Reporting. Do you receive financial reports monthly? If you are paying for accounting services, your CPA should make a commitment to provide you with a financial package which would include your profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, and balance sheet. If you do not have current reports, how do you know your financial position in your business? Your monthly financial reports are just as important as patient x-rays. Both are needed to determine the treatment plan or next course of action.
Tax planning. The goal of every CPA is to help their client maximize tax breaks and minimize tax liabilities in legal and efficient ways. However, as a business owner, do you have a plan to make quarterly tax payments? Does your CPA help you plan every year, so you avoid the dreaded tax surprise—the conversation of “I hate to tell you this, but you had such a banner year in earnings that you will owe an additional $50,000 in federal taxes this year.” Gulp. Where is that money coming from? A midyear review and a fourth-quarter review could alleviate or greatly reduce unplanned surprises and give you time to plan properly.
As you can tell from the bullet points above, not all CPA firms are equal. It takes communication, education, strategic planning, and lots of hard work for any CPA-client relationship to succeed. Just like a garden, you never plan to fail, but you may fail to plan. It takes time and energy to produce the beauty that you enjoy.
Spring is a great time to evaluate your CPA relationship and make sure you are working with professionals who can help you enjoy the fruits of your labor in the dental practice and to minimize your worries on the financial side of life. This spring, make sure your CPA firm—current or new—will be an important part of your success so you can sit back and smell those roses!