Ask the Experts

Ask the Experts: CPAs can benefit small businesses

CorrespondentDecember 2, 2013 

CPA Jay Lesemann

BOB DONNAN — COURTESY OF NCACPA

Jay Lesemann, a certified public accountant, is not unaccustomed to getting calls from clients at off hours. He once took a call at 1a.m.

“The client had something to get off his chest,” Lesemann said. “He said I was the only person he knew who could listen and give advice without throwing emotion into the equation.”

While it’s natural to call on a CPA for help during tax season, these professionals also can help small-business owners with everything from understanding governmental regulations to administrative questions.

“CPAs can be a business owner’s best friend,” Lesemann said.

Lesemann, managing member of Lesemann & Associates in Huntersville, offers this advice on how CPAs can benefit small businesses:

•  Interview firms: Lesemann recommends that business owners interview at least two or three CPAs or firms before choosing. Business owners should ask questions such as what kinds of clients the firm works with, what the firm has done in the past five years and what does the firm do exceptionally well and not well. Make sure to understand their fee structure.

Business owners also should pay attention to whether they relate well with the CPA.

“It’s a relationship you’re committing to,” Lesemann said. CPAs often are knowledgeable in many subjects and can provide ongoing, objective business advice.

•  Discuss your exit plan with your CPA: Lesemann said that a business’s structure could depend on how its owner plans for it to end.

“Succession planning is a big part of what our profession does,” he said. If an owner plans to pass on the business to her children, for example, her business plan would look different than if she planned to build it up and sell it in a few years.

•  Consider your CPA’s advice about technology: Many CPA are tech-savvy, Lesemann said. That means a CPA can help a business owner sort through different accounting software and choose the best one for his business.

•  Discuss bank financing and bookkeeping: “So many business owners think that you can go to a bank with an idea and a business plan and get a loan,” Lesemann said. “That’s so far from the truth.”

Working with a CPA to secure a loan will increase a business owner’s credibility with a bank and will make sure the process is conducted properly.

CPAs also can train their clients in cash management, give guidance on how keep up with books and periodically check over clients’ bookkeeping.

“The best business owner is the one who knows he or she is only as good as the people they work with,” Lesemann said. “Normally business owners will get into a business because they are good at that activity, ... but they forget about the rest of it, and that’s where we can help.”

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