Not having a good accountant/bookkeeper may not break your business, but having one on your team sure helps! A good accountant can have a HUGE impact on your bottom line.
Because they handle your money, choosing one is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. Take your time — if you are feeling pressure to decide, this may not be the person or firm for you.
To help you along, here are a few questions to ask the prospective accountant (or accounting firm).
1. How many years has the accountant been in business? With the constant changes in the tax laws and accounting reporting requirements, someone with a minimum of 5 years experience is ideal since you want a business/firm that has been around and won’t go under on you. You don’t want a fly-by-night operation that’s here today and gone tomorrow.
2. How many years of experience does the accountant have? Again, a minimum of 5 years is ideal…however, industry specific experience of 2-3 years is a good start.
3. What industry are they proficient in? Depending on your industry, this question could be vital. You want an accountant/bookkeeper who knows the red flags for your industry as well as what to look for when reviewing your financial statements & taxes for errors.
4. What is their response time and communication style? Response time should ideally be within 24-48 hours as a business courtesy; however, communication style is up to you. You should lean toward someone that communicates via similar media/channels as you. For example, if you are proficient and comfortable with email/Instant Messenger communication, but your accountant is not…you may have an impasse regarding responsiveness. So keep communication channel preference in mind.
5. What is the size of the firm? This only matters in terms of services needs and responsiveness. If you are looking for a “one-stop shop” for bookkeeping, accounting, payroll and taxes… someone that only does bookkeeping is not going to be for you in terms of service.
If you need quick turnaround for certain items, a 20+ person firm may not be for you. On the other hand, if you need 20 financial reviews done simultaneously, a 2 person firm may not be for you in terms of responsiveness.
BONUS – What is your comfort level/rapport with them? This isn’t necessarily a question to ask the prospect but rather something you should ask yourself prior to signing a services agreement. You want to have a certain level of comfort with them, after all, they will be handling your business’ money & financial affairs… so if something just doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore it.
Having the answers to these questions is a good foundation for making this decision…If you need help or you have questions, please contact us. We’d be happy to help.
About The Guest Blogger: Joyce M. Washington, CPA
Joyce is a CPA who has spent the better part of almost 20 years honing her craft as an accountant with various companies in the Greater Baltimore-Washington, DC area – growing, mentoring and managing accounting teams. It’s this experience that she brings to services and training programs, including QuickBooks Basics.