The relationship with your accountant is one of the most important for business success. He or she is the person you rely on to help you make informed decisions that can change the direction of your business. But what happens when you lose confidence in your accountant? Maybe they are no longer as responsive to your questions or they are distracted with other clients.
The short answer is that it may be time to find a new accountant.
That said, we understand that sometimes the process of making a switch can be an overwhelming one. Fortunately, we’ve pinned down 14 questions you should ask yourself when shopping for a new accountant to ensure you have peace of mind.
Is There a Connection Here?
Some accountants may be excellent with numbers but severely lacking in terms of good people skills. As mentioned above, the accountant-client relationship is one of the most important and therefore, you should always feel comfortable approaching your accountant with questions (be they small or large). When interviewing potential new accountants, be on the alert for any red flags in terms of your interaction.
How Much Experience Does the Firm Have?
An accountant who has been around for many years should have a long history of happy clients. However, you will also want to ensure that this experience is industry-specific and relevant to your niche.
Does the Company Get Positive Feedback Online?
In a previous blog post, we mentioned the importance of checking with the BBB to see if the accounting firm has received good reviews from previous or current clients. The BBB is still an important resource when shopping for the perfect accountant. But apart from the BBB, you can also consider other resources such as the following sites:
- Google search results
- Angie’s List
You can even check to see if (and how) the company responds to any negative feedback on some of these sites. This can offer excellent insight in terms of their value system and methodology for handling client issues.
Who Are Their Other Clients?
Apart from checking online ratings, you should also review the firm’s current client list and look for similarities in terms of the industry, processes and total revenue. Are their best clients similar to your business? And how profitable are they? You might be able to find this information on their client testimonial page. If they do not have any client stories, this might also shed light on their level of experience or lack thereof.
Is This a Certified Firm or Accountant?
Not every person who can be hired to “do the books” is certified. Uncertified accounting professionals don’t have to hold themselves to the same professional standards as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). When you partner with a CPA you can be more confident in their credentials. You should also check to see what other accreditations they may have.
What Kinds of Accounting Services Do They Provide?
Not all accounting firms will offer a full-range of services to meet your needs. However, firms like Ignite Spot offer outsourced accounting services that include online bookkeeping, outsourced financial reporting, tax preparation strategy (via our CPA department) as well as CFO services.
How Well Do They Communicate?
Good communication with an accounting firm could mean different things to different people. When you are interviewing a new accounting firm you should ask them how they prefer to communicate, and how often, on average, they get in touch with their clients. If you would prefer to speak to someone on the phone, be sure to partner with a firm who values that method of communication. Others may be satisfied with email as a primary means of communication.
Does the Firm the Have Experience and Skill to Make Me Profitable?
Look for a firm that offers proactive advice on how to simplify your business and save money. Determine whether you would be their smallest or largest client.
If you are their smallest client, make sure they are prepared to give you time and attention. If you are the largest, make sure you partner with a firm that can help you grow. For example, at Ignite Spot, we help businesses grow their profit margin by at least 10%. One of our current clients has seen a growth rate of 750% over the past 12 months.
Do They Have the Infrastructure to Take on My Business?
Whether you are considering a small firm or a very busy firm, it’s important to ensure they have the infrastructure and resources to properly handle your business. A small firm may lack the technology to support your needs or other efficiencies that make handling your business easier.
What Made Me Consider Them in the First Place?
Was it a word of mouth referral or a good review online? Or, was it a persuasive ad or commercial? Whatever the case, evaluate the reasons that brought you to their doorstep to begin with.
There’s no shortage of competition in the business accounting space, so try to think about what struck you about this particular firm and if it’s important to handling your business.
What Are My Short-Term Goals?
First, examine your short term business goals. Where do you want to be in 1 to 5 years? Are you looking to grow in terms of revenue? Or perhaps you are looking to make an acquisition, take on new employees or add new offerings to your current product lineup. These are all business objectives that the right accountant with the right experience can help you to achieve within the next few years.
What Are My Long-Term Goals?
If you’re looking to partner with an accountant that can help you grow even after 5 years, you must also examine your long-term goals. Some small business owners prefer to change accountants after 5 years to stay in growth mode with an accountant that can better assist their business model, while others prefer building a long-term relationship.
Would I Prefer a Large or Small Firm?
CPAs come in all different shapes and sizes. Small business owners can choose a small firm, large firm or individual accountant. When deciding between large and small there are a few things to consider:
- Which firm has the bandwidth to handle my business
- Which firm has a similar interest in technology to me
- Which firm will understand my investment strategies and try to improve them
- Which firm will always have someone available for a phone call
- Which firm understands my niche and local customer demographic
- Which firm can grow with me
Can I Afford this Firm?
Evaluating the quality of services provided as outlined above, offers an excellent starting point in terms of finding your new accountant. Price should be your next consideration.
Ideally, you should look for a firm that will allow you to choose only the services you need.
A Little Preparation Goes A Long Way
When it comes to finding an accountant, a little time investment spent preparing in the front end can go a long way. In addition to asking yourself these questions, if you are thinking about outsourced accounting for the first time, here are some things you can do:
- Determine the good, bad and the ugly about your current accounting process
- Make a list of goals for your new accountant
- Make backups and create new access logins for all accounting software before changing hands
- Review aging reports to determine which funds haven’t been actualized
- Complete and return paperwork for your new accountant
- Make a spreadsheet of when bills are due and when vendors need to be paid for the new accountant.
Consider Outsourced Accounting Services
Choosing outsourced accounting services offers an excellent option if you are in the market for a new accountant. Here are several benefits of outsourcing your accounting needs with Ignite Spot.
Easy setup. Depending on the condition of your books, it could take as little as 2 weeks to set up your bookkeeping services online. During this setup phase, we will help you maintain your current accounting tasks as well.
Technology. Ignite Spot invests in state-of-the-art technology to meet your needs. In most cases, we will host your accounting software on our servers so that you can access it from any location via the Internet. However, you don’t have to use Ignite Spot’s servers if you don’t wish to.
Cost. With an in-house accountant, you will have to pay a salary, payroll taxes as well as benefits like health insurance. This usually adds up to tens of thousands of dollars. On the other hand, outsourced accounting firms usually charge a fraction of the cost. For example, Ignite Spot is typically 60% more affordable than hiring in-house staff.
Flexibility. You don’t have to worry about getting locked into a contract with Ignite Spot. We offer a month-to-month service to meet your needs. This is especially useful as you look to grow your business. You can scale up or down your outsourced accounting service when you need to.
Qualified Team. By outsourcing your accounting needs, you will have access to an entire team dedicated to making your success a priority. We offer a full-range of services to meet your needs including bookkeeping, financial reporting, tax advice and profit coaching (described below).
Profit Coaching. Ignite Spot is dedicated to getting your firm out of debt and profitable. Our CFO services are built on actionable steps that you can implement right away. We’ve coached hundreds of businesses and have identified the specific areas that will matter most to your profits. When you master these concepts with your Ignite Spot profitability coach, you’ll see a noticeable difference to your bottom line. Our CFO services include:
- Cash flow forecasting
- Budget-to-actual reporting
- Break-even analysis
- Labor cost management
- Variable vs. fixed expense reporting
- Debt planning and reduction
Getting Started With Ignite Spot: Documentation Checklist
At Ignite Spot, we have a Client Advocate who serves as our onboarding specialist to help make the onboarding process as seamless as possible. That said, there are still a few key documents we will need in order to get started:
- The payment authorization form. When you become a client, we'll send you a copy of our payment authorization form. Once you fill it out and send it back, we can get the ball rolling.
- Login credentials: Create a separate login for your bank and credit card accounts. That way, if you ever disengage from us, you can simply turn our logins off.
- A copy of your accounting file. We're going to need access to your accounting software. We work in all versions of Quickbooks so your Account Manager at Ignite Spot will help you with this step.
- A copy of last year's tax return: Even if we're not doing your taxes, it's still very helpful if you send a copy of your taxes. They help us make sure that the current year's beginning balances in your accounting file are correct.
Note: If your books are current, there’s no “getting started” fee. However, if they need work when you start with Ignite Spot’s online bookkeeping service, we will help you update them for a one-time fee. We’ve helped a lot of businesses clean up their books and will do the same for you.
We look forward to working with you to meet your small business needs today. Feel free to reach out to our team today or download a copy of our pricing guide below: