During my career, I’ve seen clients come and go for a variety of reasons. Some went out of business. Some decided to move to Alaska. Some decided to move on to another accounting firm because we either didn’t offer the services they needed or we weren’t a good fit.
My last blog post talked about how an accountant has to possess the right mix of attributes in order to serve an entrepreneur. Great, but keep in mind that finding a good fit with an accountant really doesn’t have to be that hard if you spend a little time up front identifying your needs. You’ll want to examine your business needs to find a good accounting fit.
Here’s how to identify your business needs:
What services do I need?
Accounting is a broad profession. Think about what you are looking for in an accountant as you begin your search. Hiring an auditing firm may benefit you once a year, but it won’t provide monthly financial analysis. A firm that specializes in tax preparation and planning may not offer payroll services. Make sure you’re clear on what services your business needs.
How does the firm bill?
Some accountants charge by the hour; others bill a flat rate. Make sure you understand the workload you are asking the accounting firm to take on as you evaluate how they bill. To ensure there are no surprises, get an estimate of an accountant’s monthly fees.
What size firm do I prefer?
With a small firm, you usually get one-on-one attention. Larger firms may have a team dedicated to your account. Which is going to work better for you? If you want someone who is at your beck and call, a larger firm may be a better option for you. If you want a one-on-one feeling, knowing that someone it intimately acquainted with your business, a small firm may be a better option.
Does location matter?
DeepSky works with folks all over the world, but some clients really want to be able to sit in the same room as their accountant.
How is this firm going to make my life easier?
The answer to this question should not be “they do my taxes.” It should be “by providing useful business insights so that I am empowered to make decisions.” Anything less doesn’t cut it.
Once you know what you’re looking for in an accounting firm, ask around. Ask friends, colleagues, business partners, your lawyer, or banker who they would recommend and why. Make sure you get their answer to how the firm makes their life easier.
Next Steps: Vet the firm
- Once you have identified a firm to meet your needs, take the time to interview…
- Here we prepared a checklist to help you find a right fit.
- If the firm has experience in your industry and your size of the company?
- What tools do they use to manage your accounting?
- If their process/tools can integrate with yours?
- Meeting with the staff who will be working with you
- Make sure communication is clear and direct, even with negative news or advice.
- Check references
This is an important decision and the business owner must perform adequate due diligence before making a decision.