Few decisions in business are more important than choosing the right accountant. A good accountant has the ability to save you money and time, and help your business grow, but a bad one could cost you money that would be better spent elsewhere in your business. But how do you select the correct accountant from the masses?
Are you a good match?
This means, not only in terms of building a relationship, but also in terms of them understanding your particular needs. You could potentially be spending a lot of time talking to your accountant in the running of your business, so you want to be working with someone who you are comfortable with the prospect of building a relationship with.
It is also important to know whether the accountant has worked with people/businesses of a similar size to yours. If so, they will have a better idea of what to expect with your accounts and advise accordingly – even more so if they have specific experience within your sector.
Does location matter?
With the evolution of the internet over the last few decades, and the rise of cloud technologies, there are now entirely web-based accounting firms that act internationally. You need to decide whether you feel there is value in being able to meet your accountant in person to discuss any issues that might arise.
Make use of websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, you will want to see reviews left by their clients to make sure that their service is valuable.
But also, observing their social media will give you the chance to get a better idea of their culture. What is their tone like in posts – enthusiastic or sedate? Are they part of a strong network of professionals? How long have they been in business? These are all things which you might not necessarily uncover in a single, introductory meeting.
What are their prices like?
This is quite a detailed area for queries and will often be the deciding factor for a young business.
You need to know whether their prices are competitive in the marketplace, which means that it would always be a good idea to interview several candidates and get an idea of how much fees vary. This should also involve some negotiation on your part. Although you cannot guarantee an improved fee, you don’t get if you don’t ask, and you might find that some initially more expensive candidates end up being a cheaper option.
Traditionally accountants have worked on an hourly basis, but there has been a rising trend to offer fixed fees after evaluating your requirements. This has the benefit of you knowing exactly what you are getting and for what price well in advance, which can be reassuring, particularly if this will be your first time working with an accountant.
And finally, you might want to know that there is some flexibility in the prices offered. Will the accountant offer you a personalised service where you can potentially take some of the labour-intensive, but more straightforward jobs off their hands to save on your bill?
Do they use a software package that will work with your data?
With there being such a large variety of accounting packages on the market, it should not come as a surprise that accountants tend to focus primarily on a smaller subset of these packages.
This could be a potential problem if you have already invested your time and money into a package that they do not use. Although more often than not, it is possible to import data from one package to another, this can be a time-consuming process, and can also lead to errors which cost even more time to fix. It would be a good idea to use an accountant who is willing to use the same accounting software as yourself to keep costs down.
Although the above is not an exhaustive list, it is a solid foundation by which to choose your future accountant, and will leave you more prepared to make a decision than most other business owners choosing an accountant for the first time. Failing to make a decision after considering all of the above points, it is best to trust your gut. You probably unconsciously know who is the best fit with all else being equal.
For help with any of your accounting needs, please contact Stack & Jones Accountants on 01869 277973 for a free 1-hour consultation.
Sources: xero.com, The Guardian, startups.co.uk
Image source: Pixabay