Finding the Perfect Accountant

QUESTION:

My accountant doesn’t seem to know the restaurant industry. How do I go about finding a new one?

ANSWER:

Many accountants service multiple industries as generalists rather than as specialists. However, restaurants’ profit margins are becoming so thin that operators need to have accounting systems that are designed specifically with their needs in mind. That’s the best way to ensure that you receive timely information so you can review your operations and make better—and faster—strategic decisions. By delivering reports 30 days after the month’s end, many accountants provide outdated information, whereas restaurateurs need real-time data—or as close to real-time as they can get—to make sound decisions every day.

Think about how your accountant provides data to you. Are you receiving it when you really need it? Is it available 24/7 via a secure Internet portal? Is it well-organized and, most importantly, is it reliable? Meanwhile, is the accountant getting the data he needs from you in a timely manner? To save time and ensure accuracy, the pizzeria operator should work closely with his accountant to make sure that the latter receives all of the necessary information from the restaurant’s operations, such as point-of-sale data and vendor invoices. It should be provided electronically in an Excel or CSV format.

We all know we should be ready to act when opportunity knocks. But I don’t believe that opportunity just wanders around, making random visits to people. I believe that, first and foremost, we create our own opportunities, but we also encounter situations that present opportunities to us. However, there is no flashing neon sign that identifies them; we have to be on the lookout. The same applies to finding the right accountant. You need to find an accountant who uses a highly refined system for data reporting and delivery so that you can make better real-time management decisions. These accountants are out there, but they won’t come knocking on your door. You’ll need to go out and find them!

How can you track down the perfect accountant? Ask for referrals, for starters, and follow up on word-of-mouth buzz. Attend trade shows and talk with your food suppliers and fellow operators outside of your area. When you find an accountant that comes highly recommended, invite that person to your restaurant and interview him. Ask about his system for delivering data and find out how close to “real-time” that data can be sent. Ask for references, and then call them to learn more.

Finally, if, during the interview, the accountant divulges confidential information about a competing restaurant, send him packing! You need to find an accountant with the utmost integrity to ensure that your operations remain truly secure over the long term.