A New Way of Working with Your Accountant

Introducing Stern Cohen FIT: An article by Richard Mendelsohn, CPA, CA, Ph.D., Stern Cohen Partner

Would you like to benefit from a new way of working with your accountant?

In this article, I’d like to share my perspective on how you can change your relationship with your accountant – for the better.

The way of the past: Traditional Accounting Services

If you’re like most business owners, you turn to your CPA or accounting firm on an annual basis to file your corporate and personal tax returns. If you have a December year-end (like most companies) this annual year-end meeting is scheduled when your accountant is at his or her busiest. Throughout the year, any business advisory and guidance are provided reactively when there is an unexpected issue. As a business owner, you are focused on making plans for your business and you have a strong skill set for the front-end of your operations. But as your business grew, you found you also had to spend more time overseeing the “back-end” of your business: the duties of bookkeeping, controllership and administration. Handling these back-end responsibilities was a huge drain on your time (and required training you didn’t have). You may also be facing some of the following all-too-common scenarios:

  • Not being able to find the right staff for your internal accounting and bookkeeping needs.
  • Paying interest or penalties to the CRA because you or your staff weren’t aware of tax requirements and deadlines.
  • Paying your accountant to correct mistakes in your bookkeeping.
  • Struggling with outdated accounting software and not being able to leverage efficient new cloud technologies.
  • Hesitating to call your accountant for fear of being “on the clock” for unexpected fees.

If you can relate to these situations, it might ease the pain a bit to know that you are not alone! The truth is a simple one: in this decade of disruption, the accounting service model needs to change, too.

The new way: Stern Cohen FIT

We’re listening! And I’m happy to tell you that there is a solution and a much better way to work with your accounting firm. My team calls it Stern Cohen FIT.

Stern Cohen FIT - Meet your new Finance TeamFIT stands for Finance Team. With Stern Cohen FIT, business owners get a fully-customized finance team to meet their needs. FIT is scalable and it comes with a transparent monthly fee so that up-front, before you commit, you know how much you’ll pay for your annual accounting services.

We work with our FIT clients on a continuous basis. These clients run successful million-dollar plus businesses or nonprofits. Typically, they don’t want the overhead (or the hassle) of hiring an internal accountant, bookkeeper or CFO; but they recognize that they need more accounting support to not only survive but to thrive!

The FIT service package focuses on the present and the future, not the past. That’s a game-changer for the accounting industry. As a FIT client, you’ll have access to services like:

  • Bookkeeping and payroll
  • Monthly advisory calls
  • Budgeting and forecasting
  • Tax estimates and strategies (with the help of our tax specialists)
  • HST compliance, WSIB, EHT
  • Cloud accounting technology recommendations and migration
  • Monthly financial analysis package including:
    • Comparative monthly income statement
    • Balance sheet statement
    • Cash flow report
    • Gross margin analysis by product or service line
  • HR guidance
  • And much more! For a full list, view the FIT home page.

It takes more than a single accountant to offer this broad range of services. That’s the Finance Team in FIT!  Your FIT specialists include: two bookkeepers, a manager, a CPA for oversight, a tax specialist and a Partner like me to act in a part-time CFO role.

The Benefits of a Part-time CFO

Having a trusted CFO-style advisor is a huge benefit for business owners and not-for-profit executives.  Even if your organization is at the million-dollar plus size, you may not be ready to hire a full-time CFO (to the tune of $150 to $200K/year), especially when you consider the added costs of other finance team members like a controller and a bookkeeper. In this case, a part-time or “virtual” CFO is the best solution, and FIT gives you that option.

As your part-time CFO, on a regular basis, we’d have an advisory call to discuss your financial goals and to review the reports we generate with you to assess your progress, highlight any red flags, and call attention to tax planning opportunities. We might discuss:

  • your gross profit and the targets you’re striving for
  • cash flow management
  • creditor proofing
  • working capital and debt/equity ratios
  • risk management
  • and tax risk mitigation.

The proactive support, oversight and guidance are what my clients value most. They say they sleep well at night knowing that we’re looking out for their best interests.

Of course, on an annual basis we provide a year-end financial statement and tax return filing too.  I like to say that Stern Cohen FIT is your one-stop shop.

Is it Worth it?

The FIT monthly service package will free up your time to focus on what you do best. It offers more services and value than you’ll receive with a traditional accounting firm on an annual basis. Our clients find that FIT is more economical (and less hassle) than hiring in house. It’s also beneficial for me and my firm because we create individual client service plans that devote the right amount of time and resources for the best outcome. When our clients are happy, we’re happy.

Many of our new clients tell us they switched accounting firms because they wanted more support and guidance. If that’s how you’re feeling then I invite you to contact me to find out more about Stern Cohen FIT.

By Richard Mendelsohn, CPA, CA, Ph.D.
Stern Cohen Partner