Astute advice

One of the most important relationships that any business will establish is the one it forges with its
accounting firm. Often, however, CPAs
are underutilized. CPAs offer much more
than tax preparation. They can provide
expert advice in a number of areas,
including estate planning, wealth transfer strategies, and mergers and acquisitions.

“There are many ways that clients can
benefit by utilizing their CPA as a business adviser,” says Shreedhar Kothari,
vice president of Gumbiner Savett Inc.

Smart Business spoke with Kothari
about what types of services a quality
CPA brings to the table, how a company
should go about finding a suitable CPA
and the importance of establishing a
long-term relationship with one’s

Why is it important to consult with one’s CPA
before making financial decisions?

Business owners’ financial decisions
may affect their banking relationship,
their credit facilities, and their corporate,
personal or estate income taxes.
Financial decisions have a far-reaching
effect on both the company and its owners. I would rather have my client call 10
times a day rather than six months later.
This gives me the time to plan and strategize before it is too late. It is vital that
they pick up the phone and call their CPA
before they make important financial

In what ways can a business benefit from
utilizing its CPA as a business adviser?

CPAs are an important piece of the puzzle. They have access to the client’s business and personal information and are in
the best position to interpret numbers
and analyze them. A qualified CPA brings
unique insights that help clients understand the numbers and aids in the decision-making process. I tell my clients to
look beyond the financial statements and
tax preparation so they can utilize our
full potential to their benefit.

What types of services should a quality CPA
bring to the table?

A quality CPA should understand the
nature of his or her clients’ business and
their needs. We handle a variety of businesses and have intimate knowledge of
how businesses operate. A CPA should
be a trusted adviser — clients should feel
comfortable sharing their business concerns with their CPAs and look to them
for advice. Apart from preparing financial statements and tax returns, we can
help clients with their estate planning,
wealth transfer strategies, buy-sell agreements, and mergers/acquisitions, identifying weaknesses in internal controls
and ways to overcome them. Most importantly, a CPA should have the guts to tell
clients if they are wrong and hold the line
if necessary in interest of the business’s
long-term success.

How should a company go about locating a
CPA that understands its needs?

Companies should be very careful in
choosing a CPA; the relationship with
one’s CPA should be a long-term relationship. It is important to look at your needs
five to seven years from now rather than
just your needs today. Will your CPA be
able to handle your business’s needs
when it has grown manifold? I have seen
many instances where a new business
just getting off the ground hires a small
accounting firm. This works for a while,
but when the business grows, it outgrows the accounting expertise and
resources it is being serviced with. These
businesses don’t know what they are
missing; they don’t know what could be
done with their businesses to get the
maximum financial benefit. It is important to make sure that you aren’t missing
out on anything.

Pricing is important when making a
selection, but that should not be the only
factor. Other factors that should be considered include quality of service and
timeliness. Business owners are experts
at what they do, but rely heavily on their
CPA to advise them when it comes to
their financing and taxes. Make sure that
your CPA has the resources and expertise to handle your business.

How often should business owners meet
with their CPA?

I like to meet my clients at least two to
three times a year. Most of my meetings
are at their offices or their warehouse or
their manufacturing facility, because I
like to get firsthand knowledge of how
their business operates and talk to management. This puts me in a better position to understand a company’s needs
and offer my solutions.

There is no magic number on how often
one should meet with an accountant. I
would say as often as necessary. I meet
with some clients two times a month and
others a couple of times a year. It
depends on what their needs are.

SHREEDHAR KOTHARI is vice president of Gumbiner Savett Inc. Reach him at (310) 828-9798 or [email protected].