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How to Choose an Accountant for Your Business

Are you in the market for an accountant? Whether you need a full-time CPA on staff or just occasional services from an accounting firm, here are some tips for finding just the right professional - or team of professionals - for your business.

This article from Inc. magazine covers the basics:

  • Hiring a Firm Versus an Inside Accountant: Many smaller companies don't have the volume of financial transactions that necessitate hiring a bookkeeper or accountant on staff. However, every business can benefit from more regular financial review and up-to-date accounting -- instead of just handing over every document to your tax preparer at the close of the fiscal year. Hiring an outside accountant or accounting firm on a consulting basis is a good first step for a growing business, and allows you to receive a higher level of analysis and advice. Later, when your business grows in revenue and the transactions become more complicated, it is time to consider hiring a full- or part-time inside accountant.
  • Key Qualifications: A non-certified accountant may be just what you need to handle your business' financial statements, analysis, and bookkeeping. However, for tax advice and return preparation, business owners usually look to accountants who are certified and licensed. Consider certifications, industry experience, size of firm, and complexity of your business needs when making your hiring decision.
  • Finding a Referral: Ask your industry trade association, corporate attorney or personal networks for referrals. You may also consider newspaper advertisements, employee search firms, and Internet websites to aid in your search.
  • Interviews and Reference Checks: Ask potential firms or candidates if they have experience in your industry, your size of company, and software sophistication. If you are interviewing outside firms, ask to meet with the staff members who will be servicing your account. Make sure communication is clear, and don't forget to check references.

 And this article by Mark J. Kohler for Entrepreneur outlines some additional characteristics of a "strategic" CPA who will bring the greatest benefit to your business:

  • Accountant-cartoonThey're not perfect. If they think they are perfect, then you've got the wrong CPA.
  • They can answer basic small-business accounting questions. If they get a puzzled look or say they have to research these basic questions, then you've got the wrong CPA.
  • They are willing to share your risk tolerance. You will never find a CPA who shares your risk tolerance exactly, but if they refuse to be somewhat flexible, then you've got the wrong CPA.
  • You can understand them. If you're confused after a conversation with them, then you've got the wrong CPA.
  • They have an entrepreneurial spirit. If a CPA thinks that having a small business is a bad idea or too risky, then you've got the wrong CPA.
  • Their team is better than they are. It should be a red flag if your CPA thinks he's better than his team. And be sure to analyze the office staff and how they interact with you. If they aren't cordial, kind, knowledgeable and helpful, then you've got the wrong CPA who has the wrong staff.

Do you have any tips or horror stories on hiring an accountant? Share them in the comments below!


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