For many remodelers, their accountant acts as a narrow-focused clerk. Good accountants, however, can be helpful advisers. With their specialized training, varied experience, and big-picture viewpoint, accountants make natural partners. Here are suggestions for developing a bond with your accountant that will help your business operate more efficiently:

  • Develop an open, honest relationship. Don't harbor secrets. Also, don't overload your accountant with busy work — this means doing your own bookkeeping and quarterly filings.
  • Educate your accountant about your industry in general and your business in particular. Periodically send him trade journal articles, industry reports, and competitor promotional sheets. Ask your accountant to visit the business, and introduce him to key staff members. Take him to a jobsite and discuss project specifics. Give him a feel for the issues you face.
  • Demand customized reports. Accountants typically prepare information in a standard profit-and-loss-statement format. But sometimes this setup fails to best describe your operation. Insist on reports that are relevant and that will help you take action. Creating ratios such as labor cost/job revenue or bidding/project winning can yield operating insights and help your accountant to home in on your business.
  • Use your accountant as a sounding board for your ideas. Gather the thoughts in a folder, then e-mail him a list of ideas to discuss. Set up a monthly phone conference to review ideas.
  • Consult your accountant on important decisions. Do so face-to-face and over time. Make him an integral part of your process.
  • Instead of an hourly payment contract, set an annual fee with your accountant. This will provide the flexibility to tap into his expertise.

—Howard Scott is a business writer and small-business tax preparer in Pembroke, Mass.