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The Essential Small Business Resource Is Already Working for You If you only see your accountant once a year for taxes, you are missing out. Nobody has more potential to be your trusted financial advisor.

Edited by Dan Bova

As a small business owner, you're probably paying a monthly fee for a bookkeeper, accountant or a CPA. Most likely, you're turning to these professionals for standard tax, bookkeeping and auditing services only, but your accountant probably knows your financials as well as you, if not better. Your accountant can be your partner to build a solid financial strategy.

Here's what to look for in an accountant to get the most out of the relationship:

A trusted advisor.

Your accountant has access to all of your financial data, and depending on the length of your relationship, has probably been with your business through thick and thin. Accountants are numbers experts. They understand financial statements and reports, and they know accounting software and bookkeeping best practices in and out. With all their knowledge, they can help you make the right financial decisions for your business, too.

Look for an accountant who is willing to keep you up-to-date on your books, but then go one step further and advise you on financial decisions. You should be working with your accountant on a monthly basis to review all key numbers, and then make decisions and set up action items based on those meetings to keep your business moving, growing, and financially healthy.

Ultimately, look to your accountant (or find a new one if your won't offer these services) as your CFO. A good CFO will give financial analysis to help keep you healthy and go beyond data entry for bookkeeping or filing taxes.

Related: How to Choose an Accountant Who Is Also an Advisor

Long-term goals.

a good small business accountant can help you make immediate financial decisions, but also can play a role in your long-term strategy. In fact, according to a Sleeter Group survey of small business owners, business planning and strategy were the top two services they wished their accountants provided.

As a business owner, look for an accountant who can offer advice when you set budgets, forecasts and goals for your business and can provide valuable input based on their knowledge of your finances. If you have trouble with numbers, are not sure if you're setting up forecasts and budgets correctly, or need help understanding whether or not labor costs should be cost of goods or expenses, for example, your accountant should be able to help. If they can't, then look for one that can. As a small business owner you need to maximize the value you get from your service providers.

Your accountant should also be able to a play a role in tracking your progress towards these goals you set in your budgets and forecasts, year round. They should understand the milestones you need to reach in order to meet the financial goals you've set together, alert you when they see something off with the direction your business is headed and help you get back on track.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Tax Accountant

Innovative technology.

Lastly, look for an accountant who offers new and innovative technology tools to ensure that you're both maximizing your time and resources. The Sleeter Group survey found that a dashboard to monitor their business was the third most desired service among small business owners. Remember, you are the accountant's customer. Ask for what you need to help run your business better.

Financial tracking dashboards can be especially useful for small business owners because they're often too busy running the day to day operations of their business to have time to analyze QuickBooks reports. Typically, these tools can automatically import financial data from QuickBooks or other accounting software, and create automated, simple reports to show you where a business stands at a glance in relation to forecasts and goals.

Tools like online dashboards and online strategic planning tools allow your accountant to spend more time strategizing for your business and less time running reports and crunching numbers on a moment's notice. There are accountants out there that are experts at helping you with financial analysis and have taken the time to understand new technology to provide you with the best services using the best tools available.

If your accountant is not one of these accountants, it's time to find someone who is. Don't settle for an accountant that only does your books and files your taxes. Get the help and advice you need and want from an accountant who is well positioned to give you all the right services at a great value.

Related: 5 Dashboards for the Data Every Business Needs to Track

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