Start off on the right foot with an experienced, future proof accountant/advisor who cares for your practice/business and will help you work.. on the fun stuff too!
This article will help you find the right accountant for you. Asking the right questions is more important than asking for the right answers.
Financial security – Start with the end in mind and keep asking great questions
Ultimately your accountant/adviser should offer you financial security advice that not only manages your financial and tax affairs, but helps you work well, eat well and sleep well. And remember – if you do not understand something, do not be afraid to keep asking questions. If you can’t do this with your current advisor, then it is time to find another one.
Your greatest debt in life is a future one – your retirement. Owning your own practice is the fastest way to reach this goal of a financially secure retirement, provided you use careful planning.
There are three sets of questions you need to ask:
- Is your current accountant the right fit for you? What do you want? What do you need? Do you need to better manage your practice better?
- Do you have a significant problem or opportunity?
- How to find a great accountant?
1. Are they the right fit for you?
Do you know what you want and need? Will your current adviser get you to your end game?
As we and our businesses or practices change, so does our relationship with our advisors. Our needs are different at different stages, for example when we are growing the practice, compared with when we are anticipating retiring.
You can only begin start to work out what you want when you know what it is you need. Have your advisers been proactive in finding the perfect solution for you – or are they too busy to care?
- Do you have a significant problem?
First identify if you have a problem. There are many excellent advisers out there. Some are happy with just doing your tax return. After all that’s a big part of what accountants do – the numbers. But they are more than just bookkeepers who do numbers. Real accountants and practice professional advisers do much more.
3.How to find a great accountant!
Like doctors, not all accountants are the same for good reason. In the end you have to trust them and believe they are doing what you need. So how do you know the difference between a good and a great accountant?
Start by asking the right questions and stop looking for the right answers.
Does the cheapest mean the best value?
Cheap may feel better in the short run but can really hurt in the long run if, for example due to an audit, you lose what you thought was always yours. Eat well and sleep principle must always be followed. You must trust but verify in writing what your advisers verbally tell you.
In a new report that should concern every accountant and/or practice owner, the ATO just announced that tax agents are not doing a great job. You, as a client of your accountant, are exposed to more scrutiny than you may think. Budget priced tax agents tend to have a higher risk profile that can expose you risks such as an ATO audit. As with any professional you use to perform a service for you, you can opt to pay a lower price.
However, this does not necessarily mean it is better value for money – it simply means you may not have paid them enough to ensure they have been thorough in preparing the accounts for you. Before making a decision to use their services, you need to ask them how they go about doing your accounts. They should be able to show you.
How interested and specialised are they?
It is personal as well as professional.
A professionally qualified accountant and adviser is supposed to PROACTIVELY help you so that, in the end, you eat well and sleep well.
At Health and Life we provide free no obligation and untimed assessment of your practice. Why? Because we are confident we can provide a benefit.
We believe we do not deserve your work if we cannot communicate our value to you in writing before you join.
It is an important long term relationship for both of us. You are not a transaction; we treat you the way you like to be treated.
Accountants are highly and uniquely specialised.
Accountants can only help you this if they specialise in your vocation or profession. Many try to be a jack of all trades and are instead a master of none.
For over 25 years we at Health and Life have specialised only in healthcare, and for a reason. We are not distracted with servicing other industries that are not relevant to our healthcare clients. We are not conflicted in our advice and do not spend our time generating financial planning commissions for loans and investment products that you may not need.
A professional adviser has a duty of care to put your own best interests forward and not theirs (see our article Who do you trust?)
We are here to build up your primary wealth generator and purpose in life, that is your practice. Your trusted accountant/adviser is a key adviser and must be at all times on the front foot of this issue. Why? Because your practice is you life’s main engine room. For yourself, and the people you care about the most, it puts food on the table and a roof over your heads. Importantly, for practice owners, it is also your superannuation. It will most likely be the single biggest financial contributor to your retirement.
How do you test your adviser?
Generally, you can tell this at the first meeting. As yourself, is this person thinking originally or are they simply copying somebody else’s idea? This is important because unfortunately the devil is in the detail and where expensive mistakes arise. This is not your fault. You need to ask the right questions before getting the right answers (it can be difficult, but it must be done).
A good advisor should be:
Honest and candid. An experienced adviser can have a mature discussion on not what you want but what you need. They should be able to tell you what you could be earning and not just what you are earning.
They should act with integrity and not have conflicts of interest such as working for one owner and the group practice at the same time. This breeds discontentment. Favouritism or professional bias towards an owner is poor for morale. A professional adviser has a duty of care to put your own best interests forward and not their own (see our article Who do you trust? )
Experienced and well trained. They should be experienced specialists in your occupation or vocation. They should not be not a jack of all trades and a master of none. They should not be many things to many people but to one thing – your profession or vocation.
This means you gain maximum value both in time and money because they immediately understand your unique situation: things that are critically important to you like a SIP, PIP, a SWOPE, care plans, Equipseps, My Health record, corporates, local competition and the impact of it on you or your practice.
They also understand, and can help you understand, the big picture. They can discuss vision, strategy, business models and structures, key performance indicators and most importantly on how to run the practice i.e. governance explained in simple and practical terms.
Too big to change or care. Yes, big practices have large resources but they can become impersonal. They find it hard to change, especially in this time of technological disruption. You end up paying for it as they continue to use old systems and processes. Their advice becomes outdated and redundant at a time when you need to future proof yourself and your practice.
What should you look for in an accountant?
One that can future proof and grow your practice!
Declining profitability is a feature in many healthcare practices. See our article Is unprecedented competition for patients hurting you?
All practices must generate a sustainable profit. At some stage you may want to sell it, so it must be attractive to a purchaser, such as staff member. You would not invest in BHP shares if it kept making a loss or was experiencing declining profits.
Succession planning is a process and not an event. You don’t want to suddenly retire, for ill health or some other reason, and call your adviser and ask them to find a buyer immediately. In this case you probably will not find a buyer unless you are happy with a fire sale. Furthermore, nobody wants to join the Titanic, new part owners are more likely to buy if there is a steady transition and had at the wheel.
Is unprecedented competition for patients hurting you?
- Unprecedented competition and Medicare freezes have eaten into most practices’ bottom lines. What can you do about it?
- Too afraid to reduce bulk billing? Afraid of losing patients?
- Increase marketing but turnover still not be good enough?
- Cut costs to the bone? When do you stop?
- What should you do next?
At Health and Life, we specialise in healthcare, especially in General Practice.
The signs, many of which we predicted from our national benchmark series,
have arrived. Many practice owners are concerned:
- Income has either has flattened over the last two years or has declined by up to 2.5% p.a
- Many face unprecedented local competition since patients now have a lot more choice and instant access to a doctor is the new norm
- Costs have increased, with inflation running at 2 to 3% p.a. Many practices have already cut costs to the bone and can cut no further.
Losing profitability is harming patient care. There is less money available to improve services or pay down debt to improve facilities.
What should you do next – increase marketing, reduce bulk billing or cut costs further?
1. Increase marketing? If there is no big change in the services offered, then increased marketing of the practice is going to be a waste of time and money.
Instead of marketing to new patients, consider marketing new or existing services to your current patients. Why? It is easier and they already trust you. Ask them to introduce a friend to the practice and provide an incentive as a way of saying thanks. Target mothers and you will get the others. They look after Mum, dad, the spouse and the kids.
Perception is reality…first impressions are critical.
If the practice looks run down, has old magazines in the waiting room, the waiting room itself needs a fresh coat of paint, the staff are not well trained and presented, and the doctors are always running late.. then you have a serious problem. Take a hard look at yourself and see what others see. How do you compare with your competition? Is this why patients are drifting away?
Review all your ‘moments of truth’ when patients have real contact with your practice. Everything – from your mobile app website to the paint on the walls – needs to be looked at. Patients demand convenience and there is a lot more choice available at their fingertips if you cannot be there all the time.
2.Reduce bulk billing? Your accountant may simply recommend you increase your consultation fee. It is true that you may lose up to 20% of your patient numbers. However, your profit is not likely to change or remain in free fall. Remember patients become more careful when they spend their own money. They are more critical but loyal and value continuity. This stops declining fee growth. You could opt to gradually reduce bulk bulling, but past experience shows the fall in profits will continue.
A problem may arise when one doctor in the group is reluctant to reduce bulk billing. They either fear losing patients or are concerned for their patients; often they are not confident of the quality of the services they provide their patients. They will use excuses such as ‘only greedy doctors charge a fee’. The truth is often that they fear losing patients to competition.
Not handled carefully, herd mentality in the practice may mean that other doctors in the practice fall into line. But reducing bulk billing and charging increased fees is achievable when everyone is on the same page from the outset and believes in themselves and the practice.
How do you cut costs and not reduce quality any further?
The answer will be clearer if you recognise you have a problem. The solution may come from looking outside the practice.
For many local family general practices, there has been a permanent increase in competition. As generous pathology rents start to dry up, many new clinics with high overheads will find their business models may start to falter. The oversupply of GPs from the training programs has also provided patients with a lot more choice of GPs. The faster you see patients the less loyal they are to you or the practice. So bulk billing is great but it does not buy loyalty and patient continuity. Your service delivery model has to (and patients need to be) educated as to why you can provide a more relevant and caring service compared to the doctor next door. This is where the real opportunity lies.
Healthcare practice owners or wannabe owners should ask themselves
- Using your mobile, can you run the business aspects of your practice from your local coffee shop?
- Are you happy with your current trusted adviser?
- Are they advising you on the most cost-effective and the best systems to help you run your practice so people will buy what you have?
If your adviser is not keeping up and proactively letting you know, they are leaving you
behind, especially if you want to recruit and retain the next generation of
practice/business owners and keep a competitive edge.
Clients on average sell a 10% interest in their practice between $150,000 up to
We are not a little different, we are totally different to your current adviser…
At Health and Life, we are proud to announce we have re-engineered how we operate
and use the latest systems and technologies. Many of our clients use these systems to simplify how they work. It provides them with an unprecedented competitive edge. We are now ready to share this with you see A Powerful New Way to Manage Your Practice.
Who are we?
Health and Life are national leaders in the healthcare industry. We have over 25 years of
unique experience and solutions. As well as being a registered tax agent, David Dahm our
founder and CEO, has been an accreditation surveyor for over 10 years. This unique
experience demonstrates the breadth and depth of our commitment to the healthcare
industry. With over 450 national media interviews we are viewed
nationally as experts in our field.
Most importantly we are not ‘johnnies come lately’ or ‘copycat advisers’. We have
innovated many of the latest nationally market tested practice management ideas you
see in the health space today. We offer our nationally multi-award winning clients a winning, competitive edge and we can offer the same quality of service to you.
- Templated optimal legal and business structure, agreements and sustainable practice business and tax models;
- State of the art practice systems that actually work and integrate with each other;
- Clearly presented and timely graphical monthly management reports with automatic warnings when your key targets for success, compared to other practices, are missing the target – and what to do next;
- Ways to be fairly rewarded for your efforts and the risks in owning a practice; and
- Peace of mind – we provide conservative but extremely cost-effective solutions that will protect your long-term financial security.
Most importantly we provide you with peace of mind; you practice will thrive and you can eat well and sleep well.
Are we competitive?
Yes, we are extremely competitive… for these reasons.
You as our client will not deal with junior or inexperienced advisers at Health and Life. We know and understand how to navigate the many
‘hidden’ issues to a complex problem. It is more than just book-keeping or numbers….
We are here to protect your financial security for your sake and for the people who you care about.
We are affordable. The benefits to you
from savings on tax, finding alternate sources of income or by simply operating efficiently
using cost-effective cutting edge technology pays back the cost of
our advice many times over.
The more knowledge and information your adviser can
provide you, the more you know, and the lower the risk and greater the return. We are akin to having a GPS in your car. You get to your end destination far
quicker, safer and cheaper.
We can provide a free confidential assessment of your practice and you will immediately
notice the difference.
Why use us? To solve a recurring and complex problem…
Loss of patients?
Poor systems and communications?
As we explain in our article ‘how to future proof your practice or business’ we recommended you start with working with an experienced future proof accountant/adviser. We have over 25 years of national experience as health care tax accountants and practice advisers with over 1,200 clients.
Content and Context is king..!
There are three things people want in life…
- To look after their loved ones;
- Acquire and keep financial security;
- more time.
We can empower you to have all three.
To start with, recognise that if your practice/business is not growing, then it is dying. Ask yourself is your revenue or are your patient numbers organically growing by 10% per annum? If not, why?
Recognising you what type of assistance you need is the next step. The next step is to decide who you’ll obtain the assistance, and how and why should you use them.
We hope this article will help you find a future-proof accountant/adviser to help you along your journey.
What to look for in a trusted future proof accountant/adviser?
Does how much you pay make a difference?
It is hard to find great advice. It is not always the case that more you pay the better the advice, but the more your advisor knows that makes the real difference.
Conflicts of interest
Make sure the advice is not conflicted and declared, then make an informed decision. For example, many accounting firms offer financial planning. This generally means commissions are paid to them directly in exchange for a lower accounting fee. Are you comfortable paying your accountant more interest over the lifetime of your home loan? Are you sure you were provided with the correct advice in writing? It may cost a little more but it will save you, in the long run, should there be any doubt.
As a firm, we do not support these types of arrangements, as they are in conflict with our professional associations’ ethical positions.
Do the advisers care about you and do they have the necessary experience?
First, start with your principal adviser’s personal experience and their personal interest in
your success. A great adviser will only work with a client where there is the right
fit. They will tell you, at the first meeting and without fear or favour, what you need to know and they will put it in writing, at no charge or obligation. We certainly do.
Where there is no care there is no concern, no matter how experienced or
qualified the person is. Furthermore, the origin of any piece of advice is critical – unreliable hearsay information could be fatal especially in a big decision.
A good adviser will act on facts and not just on feelings. Over the 25 years we have been operating in the healthcare industry, we have seen how it only takes one moment for an advisor to make a little mistake that cannot be undone due to either ego and ignorance, and it can cause great emotional and financial distress. It could be the wrong person, supplier, finance, system or practice that was bought or sold for a ridiculous price.
In a hyper-competitive market, mistakes can be less forgiving. People are used to instantaneously voting with their feet. You no longer get second chances.
Our sole objective is to help your healthcare practice grow so you can support your patients’ needs. You outsource the hard and complex stuff to us, so we can conveniently simplify it for you. As you know it is hard to unsay or undo anything in this new digital world where first impressions count.
Does your accountant/adviser provide you with proactive and holistic advice?
So how do you know you have the right accountant?
You instantly know they are experienced and know a lot about your industry if…
In the first five minutes you know they know a lot about your industry. On their website, they have a proven track record. They are proactive in finding strategies to help you grow your practice. They know when the numbers do not look right and what to look at. For example, they understand what a Pip, Sip, SWOPE, Home Care or bulk billing is. You are not getting billed for having to research yourself things they should know. Furthermore are aware of industry benchmarks such as the going rates for pathology, pharmacy rents, contractor percentages and productivity benchmarks like average fees and costs per patient. At Health and Life, we work nationally so we see and hear most things that a local adviser might miss such which practices are failing to maximise their Government grants eligibility.
Did you know successful GP practice owners earn from 95% up to 160% of their gross billings or have a 30% net operating profit margin? Ultimately if you can sell your practice it is worth something, but the secret is in the numbers. These do not lie.
Real-time context and knowledge is power. This provides you confidence and a competitive edge.
They use the latest and cost-effective systems and technology and to get rid of
the stuff you do not like
Unfortunately, like a freight train, it only takes one little thing to derail everything.
A future-proof adviser uses and recommends the latest systems and templates for employment and contractor contracts that integrates with your business model and legal and taxation structure.
They will do everything to get rid of the boring and repetitive stuff and reduce silly errors.
Especially in cloud bookkeeping, automation has come a long way. Now it is extremely cost effective and convenient and getting even better as time goes on. For example, you can now automate your staff rosters and they can even chase up your staff for you.
Many of our clients that have converted to cloud accounting, and it is a pleasure to see how well they are financially doing, and in real time. When times are tough at least they know how tough, and know when to do something about it. They are in a timely position to change their financial scoreboard. If they are not sure they know when to pick up the phone and get some help. It is extremely convenient for both the practice and their advisers.
The reality is, it too late, in an hyper-competitive market, if you have to wait 18 months after the financial year for your accountant to produce key information that you could receive instantaneously.
We like to know how we are going early so we can take timely and corrective action.
There will always be a need for an accountant to help you become financially literate in helping you interpret and make sound decisions based on your strategies you want to implement and monitor. Furthermore, you need them at BAS and tax time and for those big decisions, in addition to handling the odd journal entry so the numbers make sense.
Ultimately you want a future proof adviser/accountant to provide a one-stop shop
free of conflicts that can look beyond the numbers. They should be able to explain things simply without fear or favour. There needs to be mutual trust or the relationship will not work. Finally, they should be able to provide you with timely and relevant advice which is easy to follow. You must feel safe and confident that their advice has been well researched and tested.
If you are not having fun in your practice or business maybe it is time to change.
Let us at Health and Life start taking care of you so you can take care of yourself!
Unfortunately, you have to spend some money to make a lot later for your retirement. Understanding your practice is an investment and not an overhead is a good starting point.
If your practice is not growing or succession planning is not of interest you may be happy with your existing adviser.
But if you are still curious to read on and use this as a checklist. Remember at all times there is no point in spending good money on advice and not following it. It is like paying for a diet and still eating junk food on the side. You need to mentally commit as well to the change process.
What makes a great accountant and business/practice adviser?
1.They must provide you with a financially competitive edge and peace mind now!
They must make you money and provide ethical ‘cradle-to-the-grave’ advice.
Competitive advantage advice must go beyond the numbers and the structuring of your affairs.
A great accountant should, in one meeting, be able to fearlessly but respectfully identify financial opportunities to increase your income and reduce unnecessary costs and risks, with a view to succession planning. This benefit should far outweigh their fees.
If they are confident in their advice (as we are), they will do this, for free, in one meeting by asking the right holistic questions – and not just give the right answer. They must believe and have confidence in, their advice.
A great accountant should give you a competitive advantage with real-time market intelligence, that it is not generic advice or catchy taglines promoted in glossy brochures. The size of the firm or number of staff will not save you from poor advice.
The more you pay does not guarantee you the best advice. Cheaper is not always better, especially if this advice is conflicted with long-term commissions on loans and financial products.
They need to demonstrate they are a firm committed to your industry. We at Health and Life can because for over 25 years, we have been operating nationally in the healthcare sector with over 1,200 clients. We have developed many solutions and unique template agreements and software, that other firms have tried to copy across the nation.
2. Cost-effective, fast access to knowledge is power!
This is just one reason (apart from controlling your own destiny) why you should consider owning a practice.
The keys to success are the right shared vision, strategy, business model and governance to set to realistic key performance indicators.
A great accountant gives you time to work on the business (where the greatest gains are made) and not in it. We have templated cost-effective proven processes that will allow you to achieve this.
So it is important to understand your position before you embark blindly on a new project. Why reinvent the wheel, when market proven templates exist?
It is hard and can be expensive to reverse the wrong move. First impressions count whether it is an employee who is involved, a supplier, a client/patient or customer, a potential owner or the bank.
How can we do this?
For over 25 years we have built and worked for a unique national network with key influential stakeholders in healthcare from the media, professional bodies, health practices, and the Government. We also participate fearlessly in, and influence, key public policy and debate. This provides us with an unprecedented insight into your future when it comes to providing the latest advice.
From signing your tax return or assessing the value of a new practice, we are across the detail on how to achieve your ultimate goal. Our hands-on founder David Dahm has the knowledge and practical first-hand experience of setting up and running a successful practice. Unlike many other firms, we use the very same tools that we recommend.
We know where you are heading, we can take everything into consideration. We combine this with the largest and longest longitudinal real-time financial and non-financial benchmarking database in Australia. So we realistically know where you could and should be.
All this knowledge and experienced disseminated in templates, videos and regular free advice saves you a lot of time and worry so you can focus on what you do best.
Cost effective – rosters Governance, efficiencies and strategy and performance reviews
Messy spreadsheets and reports. So you have a financial dashboard
3. Unprecedented cost-effectiveness and efficiency
You save the most money in efficient and effective system. This improves staff
productivity by 40% and morale by 100%.
This dramatically improves recruitment and retention as the new generation of staff members want to work with the latest technology that gives them flexibility and convenience.
4. We provide you with a cost-effective, easy to understand daily mobile real-time financial update on how you are going
Reliable monthly numbers prove your strategy and vision is right and whether you are on track.
Work with the latest and smartest cost-effective technology and processes
Do you want to focus on the fun stuff..?
Did you know you can.
Remove emails, following up people;
Automate the most tedious, boring and repetitive tasks from preparing rosters, chasing staff by SMS;
Automate bookkeeping with 98% accuracy, and scanning and filing documents;
Get rid of messy spreadsheets when calculating service provider/doctors percentages that link to their contracts;
Move your server out of the office;
Use extremely low cost IT all available 24/7 on your mobile phone or tablet or Ipad device that improves staff productivity by 70% and save you up to $70,000 p.a.
Some other information you may find useful How to choose the right accountant.
5. Does local matter? Not anymore and may do more harm than good
Does it matter whether your accountant is local or national? Once upon a time, it did. Not anymore. Local accountants are great but they can be conflicted if they are acting for your competitor. However, if they are not local they probably are not specialised enough to understand the nuances and opportunities of your practice.
The end of the mining boom has seen the rise of many ‘Johnny-come-lately’ accountancy firms that state they do doctors tax returns. They produce glossy brochures, and they often sponsor conferences.
However, their advice may be tied to lifetime training commissions on your home loans and financial planning advice. At Health and Life, we do not operate like this, because this advice is biased and is aimed at earning fees for them, and not returns to you.