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Getting paid sooner: the vital role of accountants

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 16 Aug 2021

Small Business Commissioner, Liz Barclay, shares her account of how crucial it is to pick the right accountant, whilst raising awareness on SBC late payment support available.

A good accountant is an important part of the business team. They are a strategic thinker, helping answer many of those important questions: how to invest your money to have the best chance of reaching your goals; how to get on the right supplier lists and build strategic partnerships with the right companies; where to find working capital or invoice funding (or whether there is a better way); where to get help when you haven’t been paid on time. 

However, accountants sometimes get a poor press and many small businesses avoid them because it’s perceived that they cost too much money. According to a recent survey of plumbers by accountancy firm Mazuma, only 24% use accountants. 

Yet when it comes to small businesses and money, the first person they should look to is the accountant. Firms may have to kiss a few frogs before they get the right accountant for their business. However, as useful advisers go, it’s worth putting in the leg work, finding someone with the firm’s best interests at heart, who can save them money in the long run. 

Cracking down on late payments

I was told by an ICAEW exec the other day that many accountants don’t know that the Office of the Small Business Commissioner is here to help small firms having problems getting paid by bigger customers. If an invoice is overdue or your client is in dispute over the terms of a payment, you can give us a call.

We also administer the Prompt Payment Code. Firms that sign up agree to pay 95% of their small suppliers within 30 days. Several thousand firms are signatories. If your clients sign up it shows they treat their suppliers well and are ethical. Investors are beginning to ask ‘how quickly do you pay your suppliers?’ before they decide whether to invest. Prompt payment pays and enhances reputation.

Choosing the right one for your business

My accountant is an absolute joy and at risk of giving him reason to raise my fees, he has charged me the same amount for years. I, in turn, have referred clients to him. One of the benefits is that he deals with people like me, working in the media, with lots of different customers. 

Many small business people go for the high street accountant because they don’t realise that one who understands the sector they work in can be much more than a book keeping/filer of tax documents. 

I asked a very experienced business person the other day to suggest someone another business associate could talk to about the tech business he’s hoping to scale-up. I got the names of accountants, specialising in tech start-ups, who know where funding can be found for scaling up and the strategic importance of getting your scale-up right. It’s about doing the research and finding the accountant for the stage the business is at too.

Members dealing with late payment problems can contact the office of the Small Business Commissioner here.

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