Questions to Ask When Looking For an Accountant

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When you’re picking an accountant, the details matter. A good accountant can help you change the DNA of your business by monitoring growth, suggesting smart moves, and keeping their finger on the pulse of your company. A less-than-ideal accountant, on the other hand, can unravel years of hard work spent building your business.  

You don’t want to be one of those businesses that had so much potential but just couldn’t get the business part right. That’s why picking the right accountant is instrumental to the life of your business.

When speaking to potential accountants, doing a little homework can go a long way. When you ask the right questions and get the right answers in return, you can feel comfortable with your accountant selection.

What licenses do you have?

First off, are they a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA? That’s critical to know when it comes to speaking with accountants. CPA’s have to attend a specialized school to obtain a CPA license. It’s also smart to check what other certifications or degrees they may have as well.

Are you a one-person office or do you have a team?

Depending on the size of your business, this matters. If you’re a small operation, but have dreams of growth, you’ll need to work with someone who can grow with you. Otherwise, you run the risk of overwhelming your CPA.

What will your services cost me?

Accountants charge by the length of time a job takes, unless they’re on retainer. This usually means they’ll answer this question with an hourly rate. It’s important to know what you can afford before speaking with an accountant and how much work you expect to have for them. Would it make sense to put someone on retainer instead, or maybe even bring someone in house?

Depending on your needs and budget, an accounting software may be another option. The pay monthly structure of most software solutions takes the guesswork out of  cost planning.

Do you have any other clients in my industry?

Does the accountant work with anyone in your industry? Do they know your industry? Can they answer specific questions? If you have particular tax requirements, make sure you’re working with someone who knows the field.

Explain your process

Who handles all of the work? If the accountant has staff, are they in charge of everything or are junior accountants handling your file? It’s important to know who’s in charge of your financial data because it’s critical that you trust them. Find out how they prefer to communicate: do they prefer face-to-face meetings or phone calls and emails? These things matter.

There’s another thing to consider: accessibility.

Are they going to charge for after-hours calls or when you need an essential question answered? How much notice do they need to respond to your questions?

How can you help my business grow?

Let them answer how they’ll save you money or find ways to save on taxes. An accountant who’s on the money will know a bunch of ways to cut costs and save money off the top of their heads, many that you never considered.

Whomever you work with should be versed in corporate and individual tax, retirement and financial planning, and GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). Your accountant should be your voice of reason when you want to buy something new or expand the business. They should be able to assist you when you’re weighing financial options.

Your accountant should help you decode your finances and use them to make important decisions.

How can you help me prepare for tax season?

Tax season is, generally speaking, the worst. A good accountant will be able to set a game plan for your business to make tackling taxes as pain-free as possible. There is a litany of local, state, and federal taxes as well as opportunities to write things off. This where the pro comes in. Ask how they’ll be able to help you.

Can you help me figure out the value of my company?

A good accountant can tell you what your business is worth. They’ll look at your books, your financial plan, and then execute a discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis, a standard valuation method.

The same goes for break-even point, too. Knowing where you’re making or losing money affects structure and profitability. This will help establish a reliable estimate of hours of service or how many products you need to sell to cover costs.

Can you help me save money?

Some of us can’t help but spend money. Working with an accountant to stop your business from bleeding money is one of the things an accountant does best.

Your new accountant should be able to develop an adequate cash flow model that works with your boom times, but also is fool-proof for when times get lean.

When it comes to selecting an accounting, don’t just pick anyone. Find a professional that works with you to help you grow your business in all of the right ways. Want to learn more about accounting basics or working with an accountant, check out more on the ScaleFactor blog.

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