Picking the right accountant is a vital business decision, so you’ll need to arm yourself with the right assessment questions.
Choosing the right accountant is one of the most important decisions a small business can make. A good one can save you time and help your business grow; a bad one could cost you much needed money. Yet with thousands to choose from, it can be a daunting call to make. So when it comes to selecting and working with an accountant, what are the questions every small business owner should ask so as to make the most informed choice?
Why should I hire you?
Hiring an accountant can be “even more important” than taking on a member of staff, If you get the wrong person, you can miss out on things you should know and that can be very costly.
Query during the hiring process is how the accountant will add financial value to your company. Look for someone who can act as a business partner. You want them to demonstrate the skills and knowledge of supporting a small business. There are a few fundamental questions that must be asked during the meeting.
First, what are their qualifications, and are they regulated by a professional body?
An ICAEW member, for instance, will have professional indemnity insurance, meaning any losses to your business due to advice given by them will be covered.Ask the accountant to share testimonials from customers, or better yet, if you can meet a current client.
Most people believe an accountant will just be looking after annual accounts and tax compliance. However, that’s only a small portion of what a good accountant can – and should – be doing for you.
They can help you raise capital by finding grants, government funding pots, and tax relief schemes. They can help you sell shares in the business, crowdfund or find angel investment. People tend to say, can you balance my books? What they should be asking is: what am I entitled to that I don’t know about?
The money an accountant can save your business must naturally be weighed against the costs of employing them. The question quite often asked is – “why should I pay you to do this?” – is therefore a valid one. Start-ups are cost conscious, so ask what you can do yourself. For example, I would point people toward online bookkeeping software which we provide as a matter of course.
Our fees are fixed in advance and the basis of our fees are explained at our meeting and confirmed in writing. There are no hidden nasties when you appoint us!
Are things working out?
Once you’ve chosen an accountant, measuring their performance is an ongoing process. We encourage our clients to have regular meetings with us. A good accountant will be “pro-active”, contacting you regularly to see how the business is progressing. They should be asking if you have any issues, questions or concerns to discuss. If they’re not doing that then they’re not really adding much value.
We encourage clients to not only ask questions, but also be forthcoming. The more you share about your business, the more you will get out of the relationship.