Last week we looked at some benefits of using an accountant. I just want to follow up on this with some advise on how to find an accountant that suits you, as I was surprised by the number of people who contacted me as they were just not receiving these benefits from their current accountant.
Your accountant is just like every other member of your staff they should be adding value to your business, if this is not the case then you need to look closely at what the problem is. Many businesses only see the real value of their accountant when they start using them for more than just basic tax return lodgement. Get your accountant involved in your business planning, cashflow and growth plans and you will quickly see that they can easily cover their fee several times over through the value they add to your business by identifying opportunities for cost reduction, process efficiencies and general opportunities for you business.
If you don’t feel you are getting the support you deserve, maybe you need to start looking around for someone who can meet your needs better. Don’t be put off thinking all accountants are the same, as this could not be further from the truth. Many accountants have adopted and utilised the power of new cloud accounting systems to provide you with ongoing feedback and support to help you manage your business. Remember business is hard enough, make sure you get the best support you can get, it will make things easier, less stressful and add value to your business.
How to find a new accountant
As you can see, your accountant can play a crucial role in your business and provide useful and timely advice. So make sure you have an accountant who will help support you in running your business. Here’s how to choose the right one.
1. Write down what your business needs from an accountant
Make sure you think about what your business needs and define your criteria for selecting an accountant. A great accountant will do more than balance your books and make sure your paperwork is compliant. The right one will be able to meet all your requirements – and more.
2. Start your search by talking with peers and colleagues
Ask your family, friends, peers, even your attorney for recommendations. You could also contact institutions and organisations like chamber of commerce or your local business association. You can then review accountant on Google, facebook and LinkedIn, check out their profiles and how active they are, you will also get a good feel for the services they offer by looking at their blog posts and social media posts.
3. Interview several accountants and ask plenty of questions
Talk to a few accountants so you can compare them. And consider hiring someone local if you’d like to have the option of meeting with your accountant in person. Ask questions like:
o How would we work together?
o How frequently will we talk?
o How do you usually work with clients?
o Who will my main point of contact be?
o Do you hire junior staff to do the day-to-day work?
o What experience do you have in my industry?
o What’s your fee structure?
o How would your clients describe you?
o Why do you think we would be a good fit?
4. Ask prospective accountants about your financial and business needs
Towards the end of your first meeting, check whether they’ve understood your requirements. Ask them for advice on how you could manage your finances more efficiently. A good accountant will come up with some money-saving ideas before you hire them. Also it’s important that you get on with them and you understand what they are telling you. This is someone you need to be comfortable speaking with, but also someone who can help make you money so ensure you understand how they communicate with you and find it easy to take their advice on board.
5. Conduct a background check and ask for references
Someone may look good on paper and perform well in an interview. But you should still do your research and make sure they are qualified:
o Review their professional qualifications and experience.
o Inquire about fees and charges to make sure they suit your budget.
o Discuss whether they have specialised services to support you if you are ever audited.
o Ask for references from past and present clients – then check them.
6. Hire someone you respect and like
Having an accountant you find approachable and easy to talk to is vital. Choosing an accountant is like choosing a business partner. Hire someone you know you can work with – someone who isn’t afraid to give you honest advice. Be sure you’re totally comfortable about them being your close business advisor.
7. Make sure your accountant has relevant experience
Small businesses have different accounting needs from large businesses. It’s important your accountant has worked with businesses of a similar size to yours. It also helps if they have experience in your particular industry, however this is not essential as long as they have demonstrated that they have helped several different businesses to improve their performance over time..
8. Make sure they are technically savvy and can use online accounting software
Business software has moved online, and that includes accounting software. Make sure your prospective accountant has experience with cloud-based accounting software. They should also understand online payroll software.
9. Confirm the fee structure in writing before you hire your accountant
You get what you pay for. So don’t just hire the least expensive accountant you can find. They may not be able to manage all your financial requirements proficiently. And once you’ve agreed on fees, make sure you get the agreement in writing. Ask an accountant whet extra help and advice the provide as part of their service, how often will you meet and if this is included in the fee. You will find some accountants will charge a lower base fee but charge you by the minute for every call and email, where others will have a higher base cost but include unlimited communication. make sure you understand what you are getting for your money!
10. Establish a review period to help maintain your relationship
Depending on your business size and complexity of your activity arrange to meet with you accountant on a regular basis. Agree your expectations up front. Use these meetings to exchange feedback on how the partnership is working. You should be meeting regularly anyway, to review your finances. These quarterly meetings will keep your partnership on track.
Your accountant is your trusted advisor
The best accountant will guide your financial operations and make sure money is flowing in and out as it needs to. So when you choose an accountant for your business, make sure you take care and time to find someone who’s a really good fit. The right person will help your business run smoothly and successfully, save you time and money and basically can make the difference between success and failure.
So if your accountant no longer suits you and your business don’t be afraid to make the switch. Don’t stay working with them out of loyalty. The only people you owe anything to are your family and that means doing what will help you be as successful as possible. Switching accountant is actually very easy and most of it is handled by your new accountant, so will take up very little of your time and should not cost you a cent!
For more ways to maximise your business success check out our free tools and resources page, full of useful guides, calculators and tools to help you succeed in business.