While occasionally overlooked within business, accounting remains an essential pillar to ensuring that a company can operate profitably from year to year. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an aspect of business more integral to the decision-making process and strategy development.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that companies place a high priority on finding an accountant who is a good fit with the business model, as it really can make the difference between tremendous growth and bankruptcy.
But how do you find the right accountant for your business?
It’s a difficult and long process that requires careful evaluation of candidates, but here are seven tips that should help to make the task more manageable:
The first thing to consider when hiring an accountant is whether you can afford him or her. Accountants usually have hourly rates, which can vary from anywhere between $80 per hour to $300-plus per hour for the more experienced specialists.
Of course, the hourly rate doesn’t really tell you the whole story, so you should ask for estimates for specific tasks in order to get a better understanding of what it might cost you on a month-to-month basis.
Other accountants work on a monthly retainer, which can be a good idea if you plan on using them extensively.
It’s important to note that hiring solely based on an accountant’s rate is not a good idea. The additional expense might be worth it if the accountant can back it up with past results and recommendations.
These days, an accountant is much more than someone who just does bookkeeping: He or she is usually an active participant in the business decision-making process. It’s, therefore worth making sure your accountant has the necessary tools and knowledge at her disposal to be a valuable member of your team.
One important aspect to consider is whether she is using the latest available technology. The use of cloud-based accounting solutions has grown enormously over the past few years, for example, as they offer tremendous benefits to users compared to local software. It is therefore worth looking for someone who can bring that innovation to your company as well.
One of the things to consider in terms of your accountant’s style and personality is their willingness to be aggressive in the strategies employed.
You might want someone who is not afraid to think outside the box when making decisions, but at the same time she should be able to stay within the boundaries you have set and not become reckless.
While this balance may be difficult to achieve, a thorough interview might suffice to see whether a candidate understands what you are looking for.
Your needs for different accounting services might differ greatly depending on the size and type of your business. You should have a clear idea of what you need before hiring since it will dictate what type of accountant you will be looking for.
Some of the services you might consider are bookkeeping, tax and auditing, estate planning, or management consulting, but there are plenty more than may be relevant to your individual business. You also want to make sure your accountant is aware of the types of programs that will save you money.
Sometimes, the best idea is to have conversations with a few different accountants—they will have insights of what might be useful for your company and you can use that information to build a list of requirements.
Also, consider that you might be a better fit with someone who specializes in your industry or deals with your type of business.
Seeking out recommendations before hiring an accountant is essential. While their resume and experience can tell you a lot, it will never paint the full picture. Even a short conversation with someone who has worked with the candidate can give you a much deeper understanding of whether they will represent a good fit for your business.
Never be afraid to ask for referrals—if an accountant does her job well, he is bound to have plenty of clients willing to provide them.
You can’t work with someone who isn’t willing to keep an open line of communication at all times. Being available for consultations and discussions is one of the most important tasks of an accountant.
You never know when you might need an expert opinion, and there’s no use in hiring an accountant if you can’t reach her when you need to.
While a candidate might look great on paper, that will not amount to much if they already have their hands full, or they have priorities with other clients.
Before hiring, make sure that the accountant is willing to dedicate his time and mental focus to your company because an accountant is much more than just someone who does bookkeeping; she needs to be creative and provide her own insights into your business.
Finding the right accountant is perhaps one of the most important tasks for any business—a good fit can give the company a huge edge over the competition while a bad one is all but certain to bring a company to the ground.
While affordability is an important factor to consider, in the end, it comes down to how well the accountant understands your individual business needs, as well as her experience in working with similar situations.
She also must be able to keep up with the changing technology in the industry. Those who use cutting edge tools can bring unparalleled efficiency and accuracy to your business decision process, which is ultimately the main job of any good accountant.
This article was written by Chris Pentago from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.