Choosing an accountant is one of the most critical decisions you can make on behalf of your business. But what if you get it wrong? What if the person you select has poor judgement, or bad interpersonal skills, or simply lacks the expertise you need?
One company that understands the importance of such decisions is North Star Underwriting Ltd. Back in May 2008, these specialists in marine insurance, found themselves in need of a new accountant. After interviewing a number of candidates, they chose Ibrahim Aziz, a partner in the London-based accountancy practice.
But was it the right decision?
Lyn Askey, North Star’s office manager, who has worked with Ibrahim from the start, has had plenty of time to assess his capabilities. Her verdict is clear.
“We made the right choice,” she says. “In my opinion he is amazing. A fantastic accountant. He has been incredibly helpful to us.”
While Lyn deals with invoicing and cheque payments, Ibrahim tackles what she describes as the more complicated aspects of accounting.
“He does all the VAT returns and the year end stuff and all the management figures,” she says, “as well as offering expert advice on issues as they arise. One of the things I like about him is if I ring him up and say I’m unsure about something he will just talk me through it.”
Of course, when you seek advice from an expert, there’s always the danger they will lapse into jargon or overwhelm you with long-winded, technical explanations. So how well does Ibrahim fare in this respect?
Lyn awards him high marks.
“He always explains things in layman’s terms,” she says. “Rather than trying to make everything complicated, he makes it as simple as possible. And he does it without ever making you feel stupid for asking.
“In fact he’s happy to explain stuff so others can do more. He’s pleased to train people so they can take over, even if that means he gets less money. Most people probably wouldn’t do that.”
Transferring to a computerised accounting system
One of the first things Ibrahim did, after being selected as North Star’s accountant, was to install Microsoft Accounts in the company. Transferring from a manual accounting system to a computerised one, can be challenging and many businesses are apprehensive about taking such a step.
But for Lyn and her colleagues, it proved a painless experience.
“We installed it in May,” she says, “so we only had to go back to the beginning of April for the start of the new financial year. It’s really simple software and very user friendly. In fact it’s pretty much idiot proof.
“Ibrahim showed me how to use it, and it was easy to pick up. If I have queries about the software, he is able to sort them out.”
Organised and efficient
One way to evaluate how important people are to you is to consider how life would be without them. If Ibrahim were to suddenly disappear, how would Lyn and her colleagues react?
“I guess we’d have to find somebody else,” she says, “but he’d be pretty hard to replace. He’s very organised and efficient and whenever you ask him to do something it gets done. He just fits in so well with our company.”
It’s obvious that Ibrahim is well thought of at North Star. In just over a year of working with the company he has established himself as a much respected and trusted supplier.
When it comes to choosing an accountant, it seems North Star made a wise decision and Ibrahim has proved to be an ideal choice. But can anybody really be that good? Does the man not have any weaknesses?
After a few moments’ thought Lyn concedes that Ibrahim does indeed have one big failing.
“He eats all our cake,” she says.
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