As a founder or potential founder of a start-up, we assume you do nothing less than eat, sleep and breathe your innovative idea; but then what do you do when it's time to make the idea into a reality? An accountant, although probably best known for completing your tax return and company tax return, can actually offer you much more and be essential throughout to getting your start-up off the ground.

Along each step of the way to building your start-up, here are five moments when you should ask your accountant what else they can do for you.

5 ways an accountant can help

1. When it comes to your business plan

This is probably the very first step after your eureka moment. You've spotted a gap and found a solution, but before diving in head first, a business plan can show you what you need to be able to achieve to ensure it will be viable. How much will you need to invest? How much can you afford to invest? How much will it make and is this enough for it to be considered worthwhile? An accountant can explain all these numbers so you know exactly what's at stake and what can be gained. Not only that, but accurate and realistic figures will go a long way should you need a loan from the bank.

2. When you need to find a mentor

How do you reach out to suppliers? How do you find customers or clients? How do you get your start-up out there? Sometimes the number of questions you may

have can seem overwhelming. A mentor who has built up their own business with first-hand experiences can provide guidance and clarity. Your accountant may not necessarily be the right mentor you need, but a good accountant will be someone who builds meaningful business relationships with each of their clients, be a key contact amongst local businesses in your area and be able to point you in the right direction to suitable networking opportunities.

3. When you need to find more funding

You've made good headway with your start-up but you don't want to lose your momentum and need that extra injection of cash funds. There are various Government schemes such as R&D tax credits, SEIS and Patent Box that are readily available, but you should ask the experts in order to maximise on these options and ask them to explain which would be best for your situation.

4. When your start-up is ready to scale-up

When you reach the point where you're ready for your start-up to go even further you may start to consider parting with equity in order to gain large amounts of investment. Ensuring your shares are correctly set up is crucial and an accountant can talk you through various options such as approved v unapproved schemes.

5. When it's time to exit

It's all up to personal preference but for some people, once the goal is achieved you're ready to move onto the next thing. Whether it's a merger and acquisition, initial public offering, selling to an individual or liquidating and closing, an accountant can recommend the best strategy with your long term future plans in mind. Perhaps you're looking to do it all again with a new idea, enjoy early retirement or set up a trust to provide for children, a good accountant is there for more than just your tax return. They should try to understand your overall financial situation and goals, and provide efficient solutions.

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