12 qualities you want from your accountant.

We’ve had the same accountant working for our business and family for years.  His name is Mike.  I’m not going to give you his last name.  He has a right to privacy.  Besides, if I refer you to him, I want a commission.

He is the kind of accountant all small businesses would die for.  He is uniquely suited to guide business owners through the shoals of today’s economy.  Here are just a few of his character traits that we have grown to appreciate.

1.  He is not in a popularity contest with anyone in our organization.  He does not hesitate to call people out for poor decisions or inappropriate comments.  More than once he has taken me to the woodshed.  Rather than resent him for it, I’ve grown to respect him.

2.  He is genuinely concerned with our family, recognizing it is inextricably tied to our business.  Before making major decisions, he will sit down with us as a family and walk us through what he feels is in our best interest.

3.  Because he has been in public accounting for more than thirty years, there isn’t much he hasn’t encountered.  In addition, he does an excellent job of staying abreast of the continuously changing playing field called the IRS, and advises us accordingly.

4.  Mike takes the place of a board of directors.  I would not work well with a board.  They tell you how to run your company.  Entrepreneurs like control.  They think they have all the answers.  Mike, however, will mercilessly pound you until you have no choice but to listen.

5.  Mike has a long-term commitment to our success.  He has weathered the highs and lows with us.  It would have been easy for him to walk at times, but he has never shown an inclination to do so.

6.  There are experts that specialize in succession and estate planning.  We’ve been courted by a number of them.  We never used one.  Mike walked us through my stepping aside, and instituting the new regime that now runs the operation with an iron fist, with their top priority being that of treating me like a mushroom, keeping me in a darkened closet, thoughtful enough to open the door once a week to spritz cold water on me.

7.  Consultants of every ilk have pounded on our door.  We actually listened to a few of their pitches, but we never contracted with them.  We have Mike.

8.  Mike has sat on the board of numerous banks.  The dance of a banker and a business owner can be complex and delicate at times.  Mike advises us on how to negotiate with banks while maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship with them.

9.  Mike is a person with a big heart.  He invests emotionally with his own staff.  He also invests emotionally with his clients, at least the clients that he likes, and it is apparent that he likes us.

10.  Years ago, we figured out that if we called Mike on his cell phone we circumvented an automatic billing process from phone records on his landlines.  Mike takes personal calls from us any hour of the night or day, and does so cheerfully.  Don’t be fooled, however, into thinking that Mike is a pushover.  He knows how to bill out his services, and at times we reel when we see his statements.  And we have complained, but it has never altered out commitment to him.

11.  Mike is a real person with a pulse.  He rides a Harley, has a safe or two filled with a collection of around 70 guns.  He’s a turkey-hunting specialist.  He’s a borderline redneck.  He loves to go snow mobiling in Michigan, where powerful snowmobiles on iced over rivers reach speeds of 140 miles per hour.

12.  On occasion I’ve bellyached about paying too much in taxes.  He has chided me for this.  He says that we’ve got it all wrong.  We should complain about not paying enough taxes.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times.  The only person you should trust with your money is yourself.  If there were an exception to this axiom, however, Mike would be it.  After all, if a Lutheran can make it in a den of thieves like ours, the world’s largest Amish-Mennonite community, he can make it anywhere.








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