Every small business reaches a point where they need to hire an accountant. The more you grow and expand, the more complicated your business financials and taxes become.
Most small business owners don’t have the knowledge and expertise to handle their accounting needs indefinitely. In fact, 60% of small business owners aren’t confident in their finance and accounting knowledge. From tax planning to advisory services and bookkeeping, an accountant can benefit your business in many ways.
But how do you find one?
How to Find the Right Accountant for Small Business?
Hiring an accountant isn’t a decision to take lightly. It’s crucial to make sure that you choose an accountant with the right qualifications, industry experience, and a great reputation.
1. Consider the Certifications and Expertise You’ll Need
One of the first things you need to consider is the expertise and certifications that your accountant will need.
Certification and Education
If you’re simply looking for help with your bookkeeping, a non-certified accountant may be all that you need. However, if you’re looking for someone to reduce your small business taxes and handle your return preparation, it can be wise to work with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Enrolled Agent (EA).
A CPA can do more for your business than a non-certified accountant, such as:
- Create and review audit reports
- Legally represent their clients in an audit
- Have credentials to confirm they’ve rigorous exams covering a variety of subjects within the accounting and tax space
- And more.
When researching accountants, be sure to ask about their level of education and what professional certifications they’ve earned.
- Ask about the specific professional certifications that they hold.
- Ask about their professional associations.
- Ask about their professional licenses and registrations.
Expertise and Experience
Certification is just one piece of the puzzle. Expertise is another important consideration. Ideally, you want an accountant who has worked with other businesses in your industry.
When evaluating accountants and firms, consider the following questions:
- Does the firm have experience with your industry or a similar industry?
- How long has the firm been in business?
- Will they understand your unique needs?
- What types of businesses have they helped succeed?
Finding an accountant with industry experience is crucial because the firm will understand your business, the financial challenges you may face, and how to maximize your tax deductions.
Experience is the best indicator of an accountant’s ability to manage your business’s finances. An experienced accountant will have a track record of helping businesses like yours succeed.
2. Gather Referrals from Friends and Colleagues
Once you understand what type of accountant you’re looking for, you can start gathering referrals from friends and colleagues.
One great thing about referrals is that they come from people you know and trust. When gathering referrals, ask questions, such as:
- What was your experience with this accountant?
- What did you like and dislike about your experience?
- Was the accountant able to meet your business’ needs?
Focus on gathering referrals from friends and colleagues in your industry or a similar industry. You can also check with your industry trade association for recommendations.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, or AICPA, is another great resource for finding local accounting firms.
3. Prepare a List of Questions for Prospective Accountants
At this stage, you should have a list of potential accountants to contact. Before you reach out, sit down and prepare a list of questions to ask each prospective accountant, such as:
- What experience do you have in the specific industry that my business is in?
- What are your education and professional background?
- What services do you offer?
- How long have you been in business?
- Can you help me grow my business?
- How will we be communicating?
- Who will I be working with?
- How do you bill your fees? Hourly, or on a monthly retainer?
These are some basic questions to ask, but you should also have your own questions uniquely related to your business. Be as specific as possible, and make sure that you’re asking every accountant the same question.
4. Interview Accountants and Ask Your Questions
As a small business, you can’t afford to make a mistake when hiring an accountant. Remember – your accountant will have access to your books, records, and other sensitive information.
For this reason, it’s important to take the time to interview each prospective accountant before hiring. The interview is the ideal time to ask all of the questions on your list.
When scheduling interviews, ask to meet with the staff members who will be working on your account.
During the interview, it’s also important to ask about:
- Credentials and experience. Verify that the accountant is licensed and registered if that’s important to you.
- Professional affiliations. Are they a member of any professional organizations? If so, which ones, and how long have they been a member?
- Specific accounting practices. Do they use QuickBooks? What systems do they use?
- Accounting services that they don’t provide. Ask about their specific policies and procedures.
Be as thorough as possible when asking questions during the interview. It is imperative that you hire the right accountant for small business, so gather as much information as you can regarding experience, expertise, and reputation.
Beyond credentials and reputation, it’s also important to make sure that the firm is a good fit overall. Personalities matter. Can you see yourself working with the staff over the long term, or do you foresee personality clashes in the future?
5. Check Reviews and References
Checking references is yet another step in the due diligence process, but it’s arguably one of the most important.
Credible and experienced accountants will be prepared to provide client references. Make sure that you follow through and contact these references to learn more about their experiences.
- What they liked
- What they disliked
- Their results
- Were they overall satisfied?
- Would they recommend their services?
If the references don’t check out, move on.
Finding the right accountant for small business is no easy task. You need someone with the experience and expertise to help you grow your operations and succeed. Our experienced team has helped many small businesses just like yours. Contact us today to schedule a call and learn more about how we can help your small business.