An accountant is not just someone whom you call to file your taxes, he can also provide valuable financial counsel throughout the year. An experienced accountant helps keep your business in the pink of financial health, build value, and stay away from dangerous practices. No matter how small your business is, you will need the help of a CPA sooner or later. In fact, for small and medium-sized businesses, the CPA even plays the role of a consultant or business advisor.
Here are a few tips to help you find the most suitable number cruncher for your small business.
Figure out what your needs are
The size and scale of your business will determine the kind of assistance that you will need from a CPA. A small business may not need the full suite of services that are offered by large accounting firms. As a small business owner, your needs may be best served by a small group of accountants. CPAs also offer customized services that serve different industries and business sizes. Do you want an experienced practitioner to review your financials every month, or just someone to deal with tax returns and financial statements at the end of the year? You must understand exactly what you need, so that you can find the right fit for your business.
One of the best ways to find a trusted CPA is through referrals. Ask your professional associates and other local businesses to suggest someone. Of course you can look up accountants online or in the Yellow Pages, but reviews from trusted associates will help you find the best person. Attend local business events that are hosted by your Small Business Development Center or local Chamber of Commerce. The state accounting society is also a good resource to find CPAs. The AICPA also maintains a listing of CPAs that have specialized credentials.
Interview several candidates
Shortlist a few candidates which you find through the above step. Once you have a list of potential accountants, schedule a free initial consultation and meet with each one to understand if they are a good fit for your organization. A good accountant speaks a language that you understand, regardless of what their qualifications are. Ask about the services that they offer, fees, and other similar small businesses that they deal with.
Some questions that you want to ask:
- What is your experience with small businesses, and my industry in particular?
- Do you offer services other than just tax preparation? Do you provide advice on budgeting, forecasting, risk assessment, business valuation, and start-up advice?
- Who is the person that I will be in touch with and what will be the mode of communication?
- How quickly will you respond to my queries and requests? Are you willing to visit business premises for reviews?
- What are your professional qualifications and licenses?
To make the most of an accountant’s services, you need to know exactly what you want from them. Understand your needs upfront and ask them as many questions as needed. If you suspect that your accountant is making tall claims, contact your state’s Board of Accountancy.
Before making a final selection, make sure that your preferred accountant is qualified and have sufficient expertise and experience to look after your affairs. Confirm that they have access to specialized advisors if you need them at a later stage. An ideal accountant will provide proactive service, and work closely with you throughout the year. Insist on a fixed fee arrangement so that you don’t get any nasty surprises when they send the invoice at the end of the year.