The upcoming visit of my daughter to the dentist got me thinking that accountants and dentists actually have quite a lot in common. Unlikely as it may seem, you can divide the clients of both professions into three groups.
1. The regular attendees. For the dentist, these are the clients that go along for their six monthly checkups and probably get a scale and polish periodically to keep their teeth in tip top condition. There might be the odd nasty surprise along the way – ever had root canal treatment – but these should be few and far between.
For the accountant, this is the client who has regular management accounts. These allow for business maintenance – taking action early when it is required. Again, there might be some unwanted nasty surprises along the way such as a HMRC inspection. However, where there is regular contact between the client and the accountant these are minimised and when they do come along, they are much easier to deal with.
2. The sporadic attendees. In dentistry, this would be the clients who only go every 2-3 years. They are at least making some sort of effort at prevention. But because of the longer period between visits there is much more time for hidden problems to grow and make them a more serious issue when they come to the surface.
In accountancy, this is the client who perhaps only wants year end accounts and tax. These give some perspective on the business, but the interval between them is too long to make them really useful as management tools. A lot can change in a year and if you are not speaking to your accountant regularly, it is difficult for him or her to provide truly effective advice.
3. The distressed purchase! You wake up in the middle of the night. Your tooth is agony and you’d pay anything for the pain to stop! The dentist will help, often with an equally painful bill attached – but prevention is always better than cure. You might also find it hard to get an appointment straight away and may even have to get an emergency appointment somewhere else.
For the accountant, this is the client who phones up in a panic for any number of reasons – late filing of accounts or their tax return (they just never got round to the bookwork) and the penalties are mounting; HMRC visit and the books are a mess; needs accounts for a bank loan but they aren’t up to date. Sure, the accountant can help, but their priority is likely to be their clients that they have a regular relationship with, so you might not get seen as quickly as you would like and the bill for sorting out the mess is likely to be stiff.
There are also similarities between both professions in the use of technology. You wouldn’t want to go to a dentist where they are still using old equipment and techniques. I remember when I was younger the dentist put a metal band round the tooth when he put a filling in. It always ended up cutting into my gum and was really uncomfortable. That doesn’t happen now as techniques have moved on.
Similarly, in accountancy cloud accounting means that you don’t have to keep transferring your old desktop accounts system file to your accountant. New software such as Xero and Free Agent allow your accountant to work on the same file as you at the same time. They are also much more user friendly and they help cut down the transaction processing through the use of clever features such as bank imports and bank feeds. If your accountant is still clinging on to old technology then perhaps it is time to look elsewhere.
Finally, your dentist knows the specialists. For instance, if you need your teeth straightened, he can recommend an orthodontist. Your accountant will also know specialists – whether that is for raising finance, specialist tax planning or personal financial planning.
So, if you want to avoid business toothache, come and talk to us.