Monday, March 24, 2008

How to select an Accountant

Selecting the right accountant is of great importance to any small business. That is because, the accountant can double up as a financial consultant too, and this is valuable resource for the small business. But the sad part is most business owners never thoroughly consider all the factors that need to be, while they are making a selection. This is perhaps because of the fact that most people do not have an accounting background and lack a working understanding of the subject.

Changing an accountant is not an easy job too. And so, it is essential that as the small business owner, you should be making the right decision, the first time.

The best way to start finding an accountant is by asking yourself… “What Bookkeeping Services do I need?”

Why the small business needs an accountant?

Most people need an account just to record the financial transactions of the year and generate the various reports from that such as “Profit and Loss Statement” and the “Final Accounts”. The person also helps the small business in finding out the amount due as tax and filing that tax too.

But the accountant can do much more than that!

A good accountant should be able to help the small business analyze and interpret the financial data and then be able to transform that data into profitable business process. So look out for an accountant who can do this and has the necessary experience in this as well.

Here are certain areas where your accountant should be able to help your small business

Planning your Tax: The accountant’s role should not be limited to just preparing tax forms and filing your tax. He must be able to help you in business planning throughout the year and should regularly advise you on this.

Business Consulting: Can the accountant help the small business grow? Every business has a problem and this is true with the small business too. So a really efficient accountant should be able to work much like a general business consultant and offer specific solutions. The areas of operation can be inventory strategy, pricing, risk management, decisions as to lease or buy, and the person may even help the small business owner on strategic marketing decisions.

Personal Finance Advice: The performance of a small business depends to a great extent on the personal financial position of the owner. And so the accountant should offer personal financial advice because this has an obvious impact on the business too. Long term investment advice such as in retirement planning and investment opportunities always helps the small business owner.

Technology Know-How: The Internet and the availability of software applications and tools offer a great opportunity for small business to benefit from technology. The accountant should be able to use the available technology to provide information and strategic intelligence to the small business owner.

Networking: Can your accountant refer you to others when you need specific help? A person who has strong networking skills knows many people and every small business can gain from this.

What you need to ask before hiring a small business accountant

Do you have your CPA? CPA stands for ‘certified public accountant’. CPA maintains accepted financial and economics knowledge structure and organizes state-administered tests to prove competency and also has periodic certification exams. Yes hiring a CPA accountant might be costlier, but you may not want to take any chances and go with someone like this. So always ask this question.

Do you offer business advice? A really good accountant should be doing more than just filling out forms and filing returns. He should be offering business advice too. So it is necessary to test the credibility of the candidate and the depth of knowledge the person posses One should crss check with the experience of the candidates.

Who are your other clients? Experience is crucial. So always check out whether the accountant has a minimum years of experience or not. If the person has an experience in the sort of business you run, then that is great. The exact nature of the work for an accountant can also vary quite a lot ranging from simple tax filing to more complicated jobs such as Payroll administration to Litigation support to Business Valuation and others. Do remember that the more kinds of jobs an accountant has done indicates the range of his experience.

Are you stamping your space in the local business? Every small business can do with some help and many good accountants can offer a great deal of this. Trace your popularity by checking whether other accountants refer you to clients, businessmen and corporate houses.

Why should I choose you? it’s always a great idea to let the accountant make a case for himself. Look out for the most unique answers and find out how such answers can fit your needs the best.

Here are a few sample questions that will help you select an accountant

• “How will you help my business grow?” Ask for a plan.
• “I need additional funding because my business is growing. Which lenders can help me and how long will it take to get the money?”
• Are you into tax preparation or do you plan the taxes too?”
• “Can you set any benchmarks so that I can track my projects?” An efficient small business accountant can set up a month-by-month goals that can chart the progress.
• “Can you provide other services apart from business advice, gift planning, legal referrals and others?”

It is always a great idea to make a list of all these questions before you are having a talk with the person. Never take a decision unless you have had a conversation with at least 2 accountants.

Once you have got satisfactory answer from someone, try to meet that person face to face before you make up your mind. This is important because the performance of your small business can depend on the efficiency of the accountant and how much, and in which areas, he can help you in. Face to face interactions can often be extremely revealing. Also, find out if the person will work directly on your account or if an employee would be doing so.

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