One of the smartest things you can do as a small business owner is choosing an accountant for your business.
It goes without saying that, if you don’t have a strong financial background or know much about accounting, you shouldn’t be doing your own accounting.
There are just too many problems that can arise from that attempt—both financial and legal. You don’t want to get audited by your tax authority for making simple mistakes.
In fact, we’ve stated before that it is one of the top accounting mistakes that small business owners make.
So when you finally decide to get an accountant, now you have another problem: how do you choose which one is the best?
That’s why today we’ll show you the 7 most important things to consider before you choose an accountant for your small business.
But before we get there, first you need to decide for yourself the answer to these questions:
- What exactly do you want from the accountant?
- Do you need a specialist or will a general accountant work for your business?
- Is your company domestic or international?
- Are you required to provide financial statements to another company?
- Do you need an accountant to produce annual accounts, or do you also want management accounts?
By answering these questions first, about what it really is you want and expect from an accountant, you can have more success with your accountant.
#1 Time in business
Although it may seem at the same time unfair and practical, the number of years that an accountant has been in business can mean success or failure.
If an accountant has a lot of experience working with small businesses and understands the unique challenges, then that’s exactly who you want.
You may get along well with a younger accountant or one with little experience, but it may be a bigger risk than you need to take.
Another important thing to consider before choosing an accountant is how many references the accountant has.
References are important because they will inform you how well this particular accountant could help businesses similar to yours. And that’s the type of references you want—businesses with similar sizes, structures, niches or other things in common.
By talking with those references, you can get a good idea if the accountant has the experience and skills necessary to help you.
If the accountant has no references whatsoever, then you probably shouldn’t even consider him or her.
#3 Account handling—by one accountant or many?
If you are just hiring your first accountant, then you need to trust that accountant. The only way to do that is to build up that trust through months and years of interaction.
For that reason, it’s important that your account be handled by a single person, and not passed on through the accounting firm from one accountant to another.
This type of accounting carousel can cause a lot of frustration and unnecessary headaches on your part.
Of course, although optimally you may want to focus on processes and other similarly significant things, we can’t forget about money.
If you can’t afford the accountant, then there’s no reason to even begin any discussions.
You need to take into consideration how the accountant is charging. Is it:
- by the hour?
- based on a fixed fee?
- based on a value-billing system?
Naturally, if your accountant charges by the hour, that means you have greater flexibility in some ways (a sort of pay-as-you-go). Whereas with a fixed fee or value-billing system, there is less room for changes.
#5 Up-to-date accounting
Having a knowledgeable accountant is very important. However, there are many ways for an accountant to be knowledgeable.
He or she can have knowledge in the standard practices and processes of the industry. Or the accountant can have knowledge of the newest idea, controversies and breakthroughs in the field.
The best type of accountant is one with both types of knowledge. The accountant that you choose to hire for your small business should be up-to-date on the current trends and developments in accounting in order to help you out the best.
#6 Get feedback
One great way to see how effective an accountant is is to ask for feedback on your current accounting system.
Any great accountant can see levels or problems or opportunities for improvement in others’ accounting systems.
They may need to spend a lot of time to find the deep problems, but even a cursory glance at the accounting system should provide enough of a picture for the accountant to make a recommendation.
#7 Recommended accounting programs
Lastly, you should also consider what types of accounting programs the prospective accountant can recommend to you.
Great accounting programs are often crucial in minimizing the mendacity of record-keeping on a regular basis. However, you also want to make sure you’re using an accounting program that the accounting firm is familiar with.
By getting in line with the same accounting programs, you can help prepare your small business for faster improvements in efficiency.
The best accountant for your small business
There is another thing that you can never disregard when considering an accountant for your small business: how you feel about this particular accountant.
You should never ignore your intuition about someone—anyone—you’re about to hire or purchase from. Your intuition can be triggered by a wide host of things, but it is an important driving force in your decision-making.
If the accountant seems trustworthy, intelligent and motivated to help your small business, then that is a very important consideration to take into account.