Choosing the right accountant to work with your small business may seem like a daunting risky decision, however it really doesn’t have to be when you’re equipped with the right tools to measure their performance.
The big question is whether to hire an outside firm versus an inside accountant. Inc Magazine did a great piece on this evaluation and this is a decision you need to make first.
Once you have decided to hire an accounting firm, there are four big questions you should answer.
1. What does your business need? Do you know what you need?
2. Who are all the respected accountants that can serve me?
3. What is the accountant’s reputation and capabilities?
4. What services I need and how will I be billed?
What does your business need? Do you know what you need?
Before you start looking for an accountant, you need to answer the basic question of ‘what do you need?’ ‘Do you need CPA services?’ ‘Or just bookkeeping services?’ Perhaps you already have Quickbooks installed, or you simply need tax services. Do you have a lot of daily transactions and need daily accounting practices….or perhaps you do not have the proper financial tracking in place to measure your business performance. Prioritize your primary objectives before you begin searching for an accountant.
Who are the respected accountants that can serve me?
Now you have properly prepared yourself for your search and you know exactly what type of services you are looking, now is the time to begin your search. Do your homework on this step, don’t choose the first accountant’s website you visit, you want to know a few things such as how qualified are they. What type of experience do they have? Do they have the experience with companies like yours?
Prepare a list of several firms in your area. Using an accountant that you can meet with in person is rather crucial, this is the heart of your business.
What type of reputation do they have?
Are their clients happy and stay with them? Google, Facebook and Yelp are your best sources to find out what is being said about a business. The great thing about Google and Facebook are the fact that the reviews and recommendations are genuine reviews from real people that have interacted with that firm. Look at who is leaving the reviews, how long have the firm been getting reviews, are they consistent with their reviews (or did they get a bunch at once).
After identifying the high performing firms that can provide you service, chose at least two providers and set up a consultation to make your final decision.
Ask questions such as their capacity, experience, capabilities, education, qualifications. Typically, firms that are involved in the community tend provide a higher level of service
What services do I need and how will I be billed?
Before you are ready to move forward with your accountant, make sure you understand how the accountant bills for their services. There are a large number of billing structures and can vary pretty widely. Some accountants charge by the hour, others have flat rates per service, and others use some combination of the two. There may also be additional charges that occur and may have not already been discussed. Make sure you are asking about what services you’ll be receiving and any potential charges, it’s better to be surprised now than before you get the bill.