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SMEs 'should make more use of accountants'

02/09/13

Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are failing to make the best use of their accountants.

The latest Pulse survey from Sage shows that nearly two-fifths of firms questioned are not getting full value by consulting these experienced professionals when it comes to taking important decisions.

Trust in accountants is improving, however, as they have managed to replace banks (two per cent), family and friends (five per cent) and the internet (20 per cent) in terms of where small businesses turn for advice.

It seems too many companies are still viewing the accountant role as purely functional, as managing and filing accounts (93 per cent) and minimising tax liabilities (60 per cent) are the two most popular uses for these professionals.

With 78 per cent of SMEs forced to cut costs over the past 12 months, accountants should be putting themselves forward as a key advice hub to help steer organisations through these difficult times.

Paul Tooth, managing director of Sage's accountants division, said: "The UK accountancy profession is now ideally positioned to be an integral partner to UK small businesses, but it is surprising that so few are taking advantage of the full extent of services available beyond basic bookkeeping."

He added no one is "better placed" than accountants to help SMEs, especially at a time when optimism is returning to the sector.

Establishing the right parameters of the accountant-business relationship is key. Currently, 35 per cent view it as a partnership, 49 per cent think of it as consultant/client and 16 per cent believe it is simply a transactional relationship.

If accountants want to play an important role going forwards, they need to convince organisations of their usefulness aside from perfunctory financial matters. By doing so, they can have a much greater say in the direction the company takes and hopefully become a trusted and respect confidant.

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