Great Ideas for your Small Business: Hire a Good Accountant
No matter what stage of life your business is in, you’ll need an experienced accountant not just to prepare your taxes, but also to help you plan your long-term financial goals.
A good small business accountant understands and keeps up with state and federal tax laws but also should know enough about your business to become a vital member of your advisory team. Your accountant should be consulted before you buy any equipment, sign a major deal, or sell or relocate your business.
But how do you find the right accountant for your small business? If possible, look for someone with experience in your specific industry. If you are in the apparel business, you want someone who knows fashion. If you are in the construction industry, you want someone who knows the ins and outs of leasing heavy equipment and dealing with subcontractors.
The best way to find a good accountant is via word-of- mouth; start by asking your friends, neighbors, and business associates for recommendations.
Remember, in order to do a good job your accountant has to know nearly everything about you, your family, and your business. This is why it’s essential to find someone you feel comfortable talking with. The person you choose should not only be competent, but also have good chemistry with you and your staff.
Once you assemble a list of potential candidates, call their offices and ask someone there to send you a company pro- file, brochure, or other written material. When the package arrives, study it. Is the material clear and well presented? Is the cover letter neatly typed? You want to make sure the firm makes a positive first impression, because it will be representing you and your company to the Internal Revenue Ser- vice and to the rest of the business world.
If the package looks good, call and make an appointment to meet with someone at the firm. Many entrepreneurs prefer to work with small accounting firms because they are more likely to work directly with a partner or principal. But if your business requires a big company with international offices, don’t be afraid to go with a big firm.
Schedule at least an hour for an initial visit. If the person expects to charge you for the get-acquainted meeting, cancel it. A reputable accountant will meet with prospective clients at no charge.
Make a list of questions you want to ask during your inter- view. Sit back and listen to the answers. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable talking with the person. Remember, you will be sharing very personal financial information.
If the chemistry and credentials are right, ask for a short list of other clients you can call for references. If the person is reluctant to provide such a list, this is a major red flag.
You should ask whether or not members of the firm are up-to-date with the professional courses they are required to take by their accrediting organizations. You also want to know if they are certified public accountants.
If their references check out, be sure to discuss these specific issues:
- What is the fee for specific projects and services?
- Who, specifically, at the firm will do the hands-on accounting and tax preparation? Can an introduction to that person be arranged?
- How does the firm expect information to be provided to them? By fax? On disk? In person? Via e-mail?
- When, specifically, does the firm need the information?
- Is the firm experienced in handling disputes with the IRS? 6 How does the firm expect to be paid? Net 30?
Remember, if things don’t work out, don’t be afraid to change accountants. There are thousands out there who would be happy to have your business.