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Venturing into the business world takes a lot of courage.  It is not a decision that should be entered into lightly.  There are many factors to be taken into consideration and the first of which should be selecting an accountant.  Finding the right accountant can be a daunting task but one that should not be taken lightly.  Your accountant should be the “go-to” person in charting your financial course for the next several years.  It is crucial that you hire the right accountant to maximize the odds of your success (click here for our accountant information).

Here are some important tips to consider before hiring an accountant:

  1. Determine your business’ needs

First and foremost, one must consider what tasks you would like the accountant to handle.  Do you need an accountant to prepare the business taxes?  Or an accountant that will handle all the financials to include accounting and bookkeeping?  There are many different types of accountants who specialize in certain fields.  Recognizing your business needs will help narrow the search for the right accountant.

  1. Consider an outsourced accountant verses an in-house accountant

If you are just starting out, a common and wise decision would be to consider hiring an outsourced accountant.  An outsourced accountant can help manage financial statements, prepare taxes, and offer guidance.  As your business grows, you may want to consider hiring an in-house accountant.  An in-house accountant can manage the overall processes such as the handling of daily transactions, payroll, and the general ledger.  All of the above are important when selecting which type of accountant will meet your business needs.   Whether it be an in-house accountant or an outsourced accountant, it is important to know the options that are available.

  1. Consider the credentials of the accountant

Once the position has been posted, you may receive many applications.  While being a certified public accountant is important when considering an applicant’s qualifications, it should not be the only factor in your decision.  With the ever-changing tax laws, your accountant should be up to speed on current tax law.  Another important factor in hiring an accountant is that they be a member of a professional accounting organization. This demonstrates their willingness to be aware of changes within the accounting world, and knowledgeable on current accounting events.

  1. Consider the specific industry experience

Depending on what type of business you have, it is important that the accountant be well-versed and competent in that field.  Each industry has different requirements and demands.  It is extremely prudent and wise to select an accountant that has experience in your industry.  There is a considerable difference when it comes to bookkeeping for a construction business as compared to a technology firm.  This is where an accountant’s knowledge base can be invaluable.

  1. Research their reputation

With the internet readily available, researching an accountant’s background and reviews online can be extremely easy and helpful.  This is also another tool in investigating their standing and reputation within the community.  Also, inquiring of their references or past clients can give important insights to their credentials and work ethic.  Would they recommend the candidate for the position?  Would they hire them again?  Oftentimes, the answers to these simple questions can help in evaluating if the accountant would be a good fit for your business.

  1. Ask for references AND call them!

When hiring an accountant, always ask for references (colleagues, prior clients/or current clients)!  This is key – call their references.  Call them and inform the accountant you are calling them.  This is important due diligence that cannot and should not be overlooked.  As mentioned in the above, a simple call with a few questions can be very informative and well worth your time.  Do not underestimate the value of your network (i.e. friends, family, colleagues, etc.).  Ask if they have recommendations for an accountant.

  1. Fast response time

Being able to communicate regularly and in a timely manner with your accountant is important.  If you are waiting for days before he or she responds to your emails or calls, you are surely not in the right hands.  An accountant’s response time is a big factor towards building trust, not to mention preventing penalties or fees from the IRS.

  1. Assess if they are a team player

Avoid accountants that are solely focused on achieving their goals within your business and not your goals.   Your accountant should be a partner working within the company to achieve your vision.   If your accountant does not share a mutual vision for the business, they are not a good fit for the company.  Ultimately, they can derail the success of your business.

  1. Think outside the box 

If you do not have any success in searching for an accountant through recommendations, another way to search for an accountant is through resources such as CPA directories, networking events, and conferences.

  1. Good rapport with accountant

Since you will be communicating and interacting with the accountant often, it is essential to have someone that remembers your name, you can find common ground with, who actively listens to your needs, and reserves judgment.

  1. Know the fee structure upfront

This should be communicated upfront.  You must know what to expect when being invoiced.  And as the business owner, it is important that you know what your ROI (return on investment) is in this partnership.  There are firms that may charge per hour that can range from $100 to $275 depending on the specialization.   You do not want to be blind-sided with a huge, and unexpected invoice.  It is best to know their fees and billing process upfront so you know what to expect as far as billing, and you can plan accordingly.

  1. Ask about other services

If your business is growing rapidly, you need an accountant that is forward thinking.  An accountant who is also knowledgeable in strategic planning, cash flow management, estate planning, and budgeting would be helpful in carving out your company’s future goals.

  1. Availability to the accountant

Emergencies call for a fast response, but what constitutes an emergency in the accounting world?  With that said, it is important to ask when interviewing an accountant what is their policy for “emergencies” and what would constitute an emergency in the finance world?  When should I expect a return call?  Is there a main line or number where a message may be left?  If I call you before XXX, when should I expect a return call?  Accountants also have families and lives of their own, and knowing the expectation upfront helps build that “trust” relationship.

  1. Familiarity with technology 

With the advancements in technology, this enables accountants to be more productive and efficient in helping their clients meet their financial goals.  Having an accountant that has training and is knowledgeable in using current technology is extremely valuable.

  1. Knowledgeable in your business current accounting software

If you are already at ease with your current software, seek an accountant that is familiar with your accounting software also.  This will reduce the time it may take to get the accountant up to speed with your business’s financials, and ensure they are able to navigate through the software with ease.

  1. Access to your company’s financial data

Being the business owner, you own all of the data that is being generated by your business. With that said, every financial report, spreadsheet, and data in general processed by an accountant for YOUR business is yours.  You have the right to every piece of data that will be processed by an accountant for your company.  The accountant should give you access to this data.  If the accountant denies you this information, there is a serious problem.

  1. Do not rush when hiring an accountant

There’s no time limit when it comes to finding the right accountant for your business.  It is important to do your due diligence and research when hiring an accountant.  Consider all of the above aforementioned and what qualities are essential to your business.

Accountants indeed play a vital role in the different stages of a business’ growth. Their role goes beyond crunching numbers, filing taxes, and handling payroll. If you want to elevate your business to the next level, make sure you choose the right accountant: an accountant who is experienced, capable, and one who can help you save time and money year after year.