Appointing the right retail accountant is one of the most critical decisions for any retail business. Here at CounterBooks, we have the pleasure of working with many leading retail accountant and business advisors so we have created a checklist of some key areas for your consideration:-
1. Retail experience – this might be obvious and is the most important, the accounting firm should have a pedigree in retail. The firm’s experience should match your future aspirations as much as your current needs. If you are a small high street retailer and wish to remain at that size, then a high street accountant could be appropriate. Alternatively, if you are looking to grow into the next Tesco, then you will need a Top 10 firm from the conception of your venture.
2. Size of firm – The size of the firm will influence your decision, as it will determine the fee level (general rule of thumb – larger the firm, the higher the fee) as well as the possible relationship. The larger the firm, the more staff, offices, expertise and services. The smaller the firm, the less people, and therefore a smaller pool of talent and less specialism, however if you are a smaller business, then this will work in your favour, as you are likely to have a much more personal relationship with a partner.
3. Client base – it is important to understand the firm’s client portfolio, you need a retail accountant which “has been there and done it” for successful retailers. You should ask for a reference and speak with existing clients about the service delivery and client relationship – once again, make sure the client mirrors your current situation and aspirations.
4. Location – why is location important? It is likely to influence the fee and also the level of service. A boutique City based firm is likely to charge similar fees to a large town based firm – this is mainly due to property and staff costs. As a side note, this point is about location, not proximity to you, “being local” should not be a key driver for your decision with today’s communication tools.
5. Range of services – your ambitions are likely to drive the services you will require – if you have one store or you are opening 10+ store per year, the services you are likely to require will vary. Many of the larger firms, will have a corporate finance department who will help with raising money, acquisitions/mergers and flotations. A larger firm will very likely offer a broader mix of services, from accounting, audit, consultancy, international tax, systems and other specialisms.
6. Experience in accounting software – if you are working closely with your accountant, for example you have outsourced your bookkeeping and management accounting, it is important that they have experience in your chosen accounting system. There are many accounting systems including specific online retail accounting systems such as CounterBooks, which is designed for retailers.
Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO (http://www.bdo.co.uk/), Don Williams, Top 10 leading accountancy and consultancy firm, was kind enough to share his thoughts on what you should look for when appointing a retail accountant:-
“The delivery of exceptional client service from its accountant is an absolute must for a retailer. Exceptional service is at the heart of every successful retailer’s culture and this should also be expected from its suppliers and advisors. A company should feel that it is important to its accountant otherwise the relationship is unlikely to last or will be ineffective. This will soon be apparent through regular and proactive communication; access to the best people across all disciplines, including Partners, who will help to deliver innovative solutions and proactively bring commercial ideas to the table as well as provide an independent trusted sounding board or ‘critical friend’. Ideally this should also come with opportunities to explore challenges and test ideas and solutions with fellow retailers as well as peers in related industries.
Cultural fit between a retailer and its accountant is also of central importance. For example, many retail businesses are entrepreneurial in structure or outlook so this should ideally be mirrored in the approach of its accountant. A client should feel that there is a full appreciation of the power of its brand and how this resonates within the organisation and beyond. In short, there should be a natural affinity between the two organisations, built on a comprehensive understanding of the business and its strategic objectives set against the wider market context.”