If you’re thinking about hiring an accountant, you’ve probably discovered that you may need one for more than just crunching numbers.
Today, many accountants strive to serve as small business financial advisors. Many of them want to be there for you at every stage of your business’s growth. Helping to write your business plan, reviewing your inventory, looking for ways to reduce your tax liability, identifying growth opportunities.
An accountant can also assist in charting your financial strategy for the next several years, while partnering with you to maximize your odds of success.
Understanding the value and expertise an accountant can bring is the first step. Now it’s time to choose the right accountant to help elevate your business to the next level.
Here are five tips for finding a great financial partner to help grow your small business:
1. Know what you want
First, decide if you want an internal or external accountant. Many small businesses struggle with hiring an internal accountant because of the cost or their low volumes of financial transactions. So they opt for outside accountants on a consulting basis, which typically costs less than a full-time or part-time employee.
After deciding whether you need an internal or external accountant, determine what type of accountant you need. Not all accountants are cut from the same cloth. Some have expertise in specific financial tasks, such as bookkeeping or tax preparation and others have broader expertise and can help you strategically plan many other aspects of your business.
2. Decide if location matters
Back in the day, many small business owners found accountants by opening up the Yellow Pages, circling a few ads that looked promising and calling some prospects. They all had one thing in common: they were nearby.
But in this increasingly connected world, your accountant doesn’t have to be in your city, county, state or even country. That’s because a rising number of practices now use cloud accounting software to help clients manage their businesses over the Internet.
Now the decision about what’s best for your company is all yours, of course. Some business owners, especially millennials, love the idea of being able to work anywhere from any connected device. But some more traditional business people prefer regular face-to-face interaction. Ultimately, you know which approach is best for your company. But definitely consider location when identifying potential accounting partners.
3. Check around
After you’ve decided what you want in an accountant and where that professional should be located, you’ll want to begin your search for the right one. So where do you look to find a great accountant? A good place to start is with your friends and colleagues. Ask for recommendations. See what they like or dislike about their financial partners. Ask what they might do differently if they were hiring one today.
A few other resources for you could include your local chamber of commerce, the Small Business Development Center or the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which maintains a directory of CPAs, accounting companies and local accounting societies.
4. Prepare for interviews
After you have found a few select candidates, you’ll want to start preparing for the interview process. Yes, you really do need to conduct interviews. You are gearing up to hire someone who can influence the success (or failure) of your business. You want to get this right. You honestly can’t afford to have your financial partner making mistakes, can you? And you need to know you can trust that person. After all, he or she will have access to your books, your payroll and sometimes even your banking information.
To arm yourself the right level of background, you might start by asking for and checking references before you even sit down to meet. Check out an online presence, including website and social media postings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites.
5. Ask the right questions
Once you’re armed with all the background information and able to weed out the bad seeds, you’ll want to make sure you ask the right questions of the final select few. You’ll naturally focus on some of the basic things you’ve got to know, like pricing, services they offer, what certifications they possess and the software they (and you) will use. But you will also want to ask more probing questions designed to find out what makes them tick and whether you can get along. What’s their philosophy on customer service? How do they feel about online collaboration? How would they design a financial success program just for you? How do they achieve work-life balance? What’s their idea of a good client relationship?