By Ross Martin, Accountancy Director at Hive Business.
There’s a common perception out there that accountants should be boring and conservative, attributes which seem to go with the idea of someone being a safe pair of hands. I get this. It makes sense to want steady when you’re talking about protecting the fruit of your long hours of toil. You need to be able to count on the fact that the money is safe — no surprises, to borrow the words of hapless Acting Commissioner Burrell in The Wire.
Burrell says “no surprises” to Lieutenant Daniels, the subordinate running his investigation, because he doesn’t want to know the details, he simply wants to ring fence his career trajectory. It’s an ostrich head-in-the-sand approach he quickly regrets. There are plenty of accountancy firms that play to this deep conservatism among business owners and even actively encourage it. It happens a great deal in dentistry, where groups of accountants and lawyers have coalesced into associations that add credence, through weight of numbers, to their “low risk” message.
On the face of it, it makes sense to go for this option if you’re a dentist. Surely if so many accountants are card carrying members of an association like NASDAL with a “best practice” charter then they must know what they’re talking about, and if so many dental practices are using their services then surely there’s little risk in following suit. True enough, but it depends what type of services you’re talking about. Yes, a NASDAL accountant will keep you compliant with HMRC. Yes, a NASDAL accountant will provide an excellent and detailed service, particularly if you are an NHS practice. Fair enough. But what about providing holistic, commercial expertise to ambitious dental practices that want to grow their turnover, change their business model to meet personal objectives, or seek out higher risk/reward strategies?
You see, however much a NASDAL accountant may be able to protect you and your business from breaking the rules, they probably won’t be able to protect you from external business factors creeping up on you. Just take a look at BUPA taking over Oasis and the potential threat to any competitor in the neighbourhood of a practice; do you think they have purchased for £800m+ just to tread water? How is your practice prepared for the forthcoming aggressive marketing campaign from a very well respected national brand? What if they suddenly started offering free check-ups as part of their subscription?
So I think you need both types of protection, the no surprises type and the be ready for anything type. In other words you need someone who’s a safe pair of hands with the final detail while, at all times, monitoring the landscape your business is moving through, ready to help you respond if necessary.
When Daniels acceded to “no surprises” on his boss’s orders, he sensed it was a promise he couldn’t keep because things happen on the streets of Baltimore that you just don’t expect. Things also happen in tax law and business that you don’t expect — just look at the latest Finance Act. The question is, do you want someone paying attention to the opportunities and risks the moving landscape throws up or not?
NASDAL collects information to benchmark the profit and loss accounts of dentists, and uses these statistics to help its clients benchmark their own performance. It’s an impressive data pool, and potentially very useful, but I feel it’s a little short of what dental practices really need. I’d be very keen to use this data to help my clients grow their businesses: what about using it to identify gaps and growth opportunities by area, or building growth strategies for each client based on their catchment?
At Hive we have more than 150 dental clients and we don’t just protect their interests in the here and now, we protect them from the future by supporting their growth. We don’t need a charter, we just need your permission. If you’d like something more from your specialist dental accountant, something like holistic, commercial expertise geared to grow your turnover, get in touch on 01872 300232 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.