Mark likes to say that he learned all of his early business lessons by selling drugs in the playground at elementary school. That scenario is rich for insights into marketing, I bet, but one of my most memorable early business lessons came from the movies. In particular, I’m thinking about The Untouchables here, and Al Capone’s great soliloquy “there is a time for personal achievement, and there is a time for teamwork”.
Yeah. It’s the scene with the baseball bat, the clean white tablecloth, and that startlingly large lake of brain and blood.
Your accounting...it is not so much of a time for a distinguished personal achievement.
You should always do the books yourself. Maintain your own accounts. Enter your own data. After a while, you may feel comfortable shifting your chart of accounts around so that it presents itself in a manner that means more to you. But decisions on what is deductible, and how fast a particular piece of equipment can be depreciated? You got it: it's fielding. It's time to be part of a team.
Find an accountant you like. This may take some time. Interview a few. Compare their deduction philosophies, compare their rates, and ask for references from current clients. Make sure they’re completely competent with your accounting software. Certified Public Accountants charge more for their time than less-trained others, but it is almost always worth it to pony up the extra for their time.
And once you choose an accountant, you should remember that they are on your team. You don’t need to open your new business with the aid of a board of directors, but you should understand that your competencies are limited, especially in areas of mind-numbing esoterica (like tax code).
Your accountant is your consigliere and your rabbi. Your accountant will guide you in times of darkness, and through moments of indecision. Your accountant is your counselor. Speaking with your accountant is like being in confession: tell your account the truth. The WHOLE truth. Even when you’ve done something stupid or arrogant or shameful, and you’re embarrassed.
Lying to the priest may save you a few Hail Marys, but it kind of undermines the whole point of going to confession, now doesn't it?
It is your job to build a successful company. It is your accountant’s job to keep you from wandering afoul of the law. Which, incidentally, is easier than you may think. The Fed is not your friend, and they don't make rules nice and clear so that you might never break 'em.
You are the team owner, and the choices are yours; thus it behooves you to select your team members carefully and play to their strengths. Remember Mr. Capone and his story of decision...when should your call be a moment of individual achievement? And when are you best off relying on your team?