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Small Business Accountants Make it Work

June 16, 2008

We have big news at Bill.com. For the past few weeks, we have been incredibly busy working on the launch of a strategic alliance between CPA2Biz, a subsidiary of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and Bill.com. Through this new agreement, CPA2Biz becomes the exclusive provider of Bill.com to accountants and their clients. This is really exciting for me for a lot of reasons. The most important are 1) my belief that accountants are the most important trusted advisor for most businesses; 2) accountants benefit greatly from our service; and, 3) accounting and accountancy is in my DNA.

Here’s the DNA part: the night I was born, my mother was sorting punch cards for payroll/general ledger job for one of my folks’ biggest accountant customers. My dad and grandfather had started a data processing business in the early 60’s focused on serving accountants. They knew I was due any day and they couldn’t afford to have any errors on this job. So picture my mom, 9 months pregnant, carrying 50 lbs. of punch cards from machine to machine. Two hours later she was in labor and I was born. Combine that with the fact that both grandmothers and one great-grandfather were accountants. As you can see, accounting is in my blood, it is part of my DNA. No wonder that my first job out of college was at PriceWaterhouse, and then I worked at Intuit for a few years.

CPA2Biz provides marketing and technology services to the AICPA for its wide array of products and services. CPA2Biz also develops and manages client-focused business solutions (like payroll and banking) that enable CPAs to build stronger relationships with their business clients or employers.

I sought out CPA2Biz as a strategic partner because we both have the same mission with respect to accountants: we want to make the accountants life simpler and more efficient for basic accounting services like Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable. We also wanted more profitable opportunities for CPAs, accountants, bookkeepers and their business clients. Bill.com offers an easy way for the two groups—small businesses and financial professionals—to work together cohesively.

For most businesses, an accountant is most important advisor the business will hire. We’ve talked about some of the other professionals who are key to a small business infrastructure . Accountants offer more than basic bookkeeping and day-to-day financial management. They prepare tax returns, offer tax advice, and help manage a consistent cash flow through budgeting and forecasting. All of this insight puts accountants in a unique position; they see more about the business than anyone else. Not just the numbers either. This is why I took my first job in accounting. The recruiting partner, Dave Sweet, said something that just made sense. He said that “accounting is the language of business and if you want to run a business you need to understand the language.” I really believe this, so make sure when you hire your accountant that you hire someone that can really advise you.

For more on the role of the accountant, click here.

So, now that we’ve established the importance of having an accountant, how do you find one? And, once you do, how do you know you’re hiring the best one for you?

Not too long ago, I advised finding a bookkeeper here. Here is a similar resource that lists and helps you find 35,000 accountants across the U.S.

In terms of finding the best accountant for you and your business, here’s an excellent article with a list of 50 questions to ask a prospective accountant.

Finally, I think it’s essential when talking about hiring an accountant, someone who will be intimately involved in the financial details of your business, to discuss the reality of fraud. There have been many horror stories about the accountant running off to the Caymans with all the money from a business—and it doesn’t only happen to Hollywood stars.

There are many ways to mitigate fraud when working with an accountant:

1. References are imperative. Use your network to find candidates, but also check as many references as you can during the interview process.
2. Keep accurate records and don’t give anyone access to your bank account until you trust them.
3. Set up procedures and processes that offer a variety of controls and separation of duties. For example, have different people handle the money that you receive and the money you pay out.

Here are more safeguards from embezzlement.

I believe that having your accountant working with you and your business using Bill.com will make your processes more efficient while providing much stronger controls and significantly less exposure to fraud.

Bill.com provides a simple way to both manage your finances and leverage your accountant—at the lowest cost with the highest impact. With Bill.com, you and your accountant will have 24/7 access to all your financial information. That means better collaboration internally and externally, better productivity and increased financial visibility. Accountants that have learned about our service have commented the following:

"Anything that makes us more efficient makes it more efficient for our clients."
“It is easier for our clients to find things.”
“It helps the client to organize.”
“It gives them procedures and process that bigger companies have.”

I think that is enough of a commercial for now but please check out www.bill.com to learn more.

I am passionate about simplifying business finances for businesses and their accountants. It’s in my blood and I have experienced the power of the accountant relationship on both sides. Good luck finding your trusted advisor and in making them more valuable.

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