By: First Union
How to Find a Business Accountant
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Whether you're a new company or have been at it for a while now, having a good accountant with whom to work and consult can be a huge boon to your business. From helping to handle your taxes to keeping your books in order, an accountant can bring tremendous value. The trick is how do you go about finding a reliable business accountant, who knows their stuff, and who ultimately you can trust with the company finances. Below we provide some tips for finding and consequently partnering with a good accountant.
Don't Just "Google" It
Google is everyone's go-to for practically everything. But finding a good business accountant is not necessarily like figuring out where you should eat on a Friday night. Googling business accountants will undoubtedly get you a slew of results, but are they the right results…Remember, this is someone you will trust with your company's financials. You want to create a long-term partnership that benefits the business; you want someone who will be there down the road.
Probably the best way to go about finding an accountant would be via a referral. Do you know other small business owners who've hired accountants? Approach them. If you belong to an industry or networking group, you might also ask for suggestions there.
Additionally, you can check with your local chamber of commerce or also the Small Business Administration closest to you could potentially offer some recommendations as far as business accountants go.
Questions to Ask When Evaluating an Accountant
While the accountant isn't an employee per se, you are hiring them to work for you. Therefore, as you would with a typical job interview, you want to be certain you are asking the right questions and thus getting a true feel for whether or not an accountant is a potential fit for your business.
First off, before interviewing them, you want to make sure you are brushed upon their experience and their background; you also want to ask for client referrals and do your homework as far as following up with the people on that list.
So once you do sit down with the prospective accountant, what exactly should you ask…
1. Have you worked with small businesses, if so, how many?
It's incredibly important that whomever you go with has experience specifically with small businesses. If they've only worked with larger companies, they may not grasp the more unique financial aspects of a smaller one.
This is why you want to know how many smaller companies they've helped. An accountant with ample experience in this area is going to be better adept at keeping up with what could be a complex financial portfolio. And again, this is why it is critical to follow up with the references. If they've done solid work, then they should have no qualms about having you talk to past and/or current clients.
2. Do you have experience in my specific industry?
If your business is more generalized, let's say online retail, for instance, then an accountant with specific industry experience may not be necessary. However, some industries can be quite specialized, in terms of their financials as well. This probably means that you want to look for someone who has previously worked with companies like yours. Not to mention, you also want to consider business structure. Whether you're an LLC, Corporation or Partnership, finding an accountant who worked with a similarly structured business can be important.
3. What services do you offer?
Of course, your accountant will offer tax preparation services, along with auditing services as needed. But should you look beyond this? Especially, if you do need a good accountant to help get your books back in order—you're going to want to inquire about bookkeeping. How about things like budgeting and risk assessment. More and more accounting firms are expanding their service offerings. It is, therefore, a good idea to understand the full scope of what they can potentially do for your small business.
4. Can you help me expand my business?
An accountant in many ways is also an advisor. You should be able to go to them regarding your overall financial picture and consequently what needs to be done to grow the business over some time. Especially if they start with you from the very beginning, the accountant can be a hugely valuable resource as far as implementing a model that makes sense in terms of future expansion and success.
5. How do you bill?
You want to know what they are going to charge for the various services offered. Most often, they will charge you by the hour—this can range depending on where you live, what your accounting needs are and their level of experience. Some will work for a monthly retainer. It's going to come down to what you're comfortable with when looking for a business accountant.
There's nothing wrong with shopping around either. If you like an accountant and yet they're somewhat outside of your budget, get a competing quote and bring it to them. Certainly can't hurt to try.
After meeting and interviewing several accountants, you're will make a decision and then go ahead with hiring that particular candidate. One thing you want to do first off is to try and negotiate. Sometimes if you are giving an accountant bulk work, they may offer you a discount on certain things. Be very specific as far as what you expect, what you'd like to see and how you envision your partnership. You want to come up with a written agreement between you. Such an agreement should outline the services that will be performed, the scope, the length of time, and fees as far as how much and how they are to be paid. Everyone needs to be on the same page going into the relationship. Once the accountant does start working for you, you probably want to schedule regular meetings so that you maintain those lines of communication.
If you're ready to hire a business accountant and need some extra funds to do so, we can certainly help. First Union Lending offers a variety of flexible business loan programs that let your small business take it to that next level. Call today!