hiredNot 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.

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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.

Website:  http://www.thecommoncents.com

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/thecommoncents

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/thecommoncents

I grew up in Texas, where spring was spring — classic spring: redbud trees and azaleas blooming, daffodils coming up in neighborhood flower beds, patches of bluebonnets and indian paintbrushes along the roadsides.

Here’s my springtime experience here in the mountains of central Colorado.

spring ice fishing
No daffodils here!

Ha! Yep, I was ice fishing earlier in March and the ice was almost two feet thick at Antero Reservoir.

It just takes spring a long time to trudge up to elevation. It’s a game of king-of-the-hill, and winter is not easily pushed off the mountain. The re-greening of the earth comes to us in mid-May and even more so in June. Spring is not too green here.

There are signs of spring, though: the arrival of migrating mountain bluebirds this week.

Come to think of it, most of our signs of spring are in the animal kingdom. In the last week, I’ve seen the reappearance of robins, mourning doves, Clark’s nutcrackers, chipmunks, and golden mantle squirrels.

Previous springs inform me that the next sign of spring here will probably be the re-emergence of the prairie dogs from their winter stupor. One of these mornings soon, they will be standing up straight and watchful by the side of the road, enjoying the morning sun as I drive my kid to school. Prairie dogs are pretty smart about cars, and seem instinctively trained to “stop, look, and listen” before crossing the road — few are hit relative to their numbers and inclination to colonize next to roads. I hope this year’s batch is as savvy.

The most exciting event of spring, to me, has to do with another seasonal change in the animal kingdom: bugs maturing in the Arkansas River. Yes, the mayflies and caddis flies — little insects that hatch and develop underwater — will come to maturity over the next couple of months. They will experience insect metamorphosis, just like caterpillars turning into butterflies. These critters will turn into adult mayflies and caddis flies.

Why would anyone care about that? Because the trout in the river care about that. When river conditions are just so, the bugs will swim up to the surface of the river, sprout their wings, dry off a bit, and fly away. The trout are on to them. They will eat a bunch of them, in effect breaking their winter semi-fast and nutritionally preparing them for the rigors of living the river trout lifestyle the rest of the year.

And I’ll be out there with them, wading in the river, waving a flyrod with my best imitations of mayflies and caddis flies attached to long slender leaders. Can’t wait.

Until then, if I can’t enjoy springtime bluebonnets, at least I can enjoy the springtime bluebirds.

p.s. There will be a “sign of spring” within the QuickBooks world in May: the discontinuance of support for QuickBooks 2009. But for now, let’s think about bluebonnets and bluebirds, shall we?

Sometimes folks find themselves in a place they don’t want to be. Using QuickBooks Enterprise, for instance.

We have talked to people with these scenarios:

* They were given a free copy of Enterprise a year ago, and have entered lots of data. But now they need to pay for support, and the Enterprise support is more than they want to pay.

* They were using Pro or Premier. Then they outsourced their bookkeeping for awhile and their outside bookkeeper converted their file from Pro or Premier to Enterprise. Now they are taking the books back in-house, but don’t own an Enterprise license.

* They were sold Enterprise. But they don’t really need the extra horsepower that Enterprise provides. Their operation would be just as well handled by Pro or Premier.

In situations like these, people sometimes feel stuck. You can upgrade a company data file from Pro or Premier to Enterprise within QuickBooks, but you can’t go back. Well, not within QuickBooks anyway.

But in actuality, you can downgrade your edition. Your company data file can be downgraded from Enterprise to Pro or Premier.

How does it work? You send your existing Enterprise file to us over a secure internet connection. We convert the file from Enterprise to the edition of your choice: Pro or Premier. We send you the converted file back to you over the same secure internet connection.

You can restore the file in your edition of Pro or Premier and all the information will be there. It will be as if that file had been created in Pro or Premier in the first place. All your user data, memorized reports and transactions, customer, vendor, payroll detail and all the rest will be in place.

This can save thousands of dollars in incremental support costs every year.

Alternatively, you can create a new company in Pro or Premier, and then export data from Enterprise and import it into Pro or Premier. You can use the export/import tools from within QuickBooks to do bring over lists, or 3rd party export/import tools to bring over some transactions too.

Getting your file downgraded, however, is the turnkey approach.

Want to do something to make your QuickBooks file perform just a little better? Reduce its DB file fragments.

File fragments in a QuickBooks file represent chunks of your QuickBooks data that are scattered around on different areas of your hard drive. The more scattered they are, the longer it takes QuickBooks’ database manager to go round up the data when you are printing a report or pulling up a list.

Find out how many file fragments your company file has by pressing the F2 key in QuickBooks. In the left column, about halfway down, you’ll see DB File Fragments, and a number.

QuickBooks F2 key Product Information screen
A sample F2 key screen. The DB File Fragments are at 5

The higher the number, the more fragmented your file. Many QuickBooks consultants say that the number of file fragments should stay under 20. A low number means your QuickBooks company data is all positioned together on your hard drive. QuickBooks is then able to access the data faster because the hard drive won’t have to work as hard to serve up your data.

If the number is high, then the data is scattered around and should be defragmented.

Imagine taking a bunch of fifth graders on a field trip to the zoo. When they get to the zoo, they scatter out in all directions. Gathering them all up to do a head count would take some time! But once they all rendezvous back at the bus and get in their seats, the head count would go much quicker. Think of the field trip kids back on the bus as being ‘defragmented’.

You can defragment your whole hard drive from Windows if you want, and your QuickBooks data and everything else on the hard drive will be arranged in a more contiguous arrangement. But that can take awhile.

Or, you can defragment only your QuickBooks company data file. How? By creating and then restoring a portable copy of your data. When you restore a portable copy, QuickBooks recreates all the internal indexes in the file. This will lay out your QuickBooks data on your hard drive in a more contiguous order. You should have a low DB File Fragment value after doing this.

How long it stays defragmented will depend on how big your file is and how much data is being added or changed in the file.

If your file has a lot of file fragments, or the file is very large, or is becoming unstable (or all three!) you might want to consider getting your file supercondensed.

Otherwise, doing the create/restore portable copy trick in QuickBooks is an easy, free way to at least temporarily help the situation.