Nothing is more important to your small business than cash flow and growth, right? The health of your books are directly related to the health of your company. It makes sense that you'd want to hire the right person or firm to monitor your bottom line, and help you find ways to grow.
Hiring the wrong accountant or accounting firm can set you back in nightmarish ways. We understand the anxiety that you experience as you go through the process of how to hire an accountant. Here are 10 questions to ask potential accountants and firms that will help you decide who to hire.
#1 : What kind of person do I connect with best?
There's a good chance you'll be interacting with your new accountant on a regular basis. You want to like whomever takes over your books. She/he will be a vital part of your business, so you'll want to make sure that you have shared values and can easily work together. Remember, even if the person/firm you hire is not physically in your office, they're part of your team.
#2 : What accounting firm has the most experience with my industry?
Some accountants/firms specialize in specific industries, while others work in many different sectors. You've got to decide if it's important to you and your business that your accountant/firm is familiar with the monetary patterns and health of your industry. The more they know about your industry, the more they'll be able to help you beyond just crunching numbers--they'll be able to help you strategize and grow.
#3 : Is the firm/accountant certified?
Bookkeepers, controllers, and CFOs are not required to be certified for most tasks outside of public audits and CPA work. Hiring people with the right certifications is crucial to your bottom line.
#4 : What are their reviews?
Look for BBB ratings and any online reviews/testimonials that you can find. Thank goodness for the Internet where so many customers are able to voice their complaints and praise. A quick Google search should turn up anything others are saying about the accountant/firm you are interviewing.
#5 : How many clients do they support?
You want to know what kind of infrastructure the accountant/firm is able to support. What size business can they handle? Do they have a full qualified staff and the tools that are required to manage your books?
#6 : How well do they communicate?
How quickly do they respond to emails and phone calls? If you're going to be outsourcing your accounting services, you'll want an accountant/firm that responds in a time-sensitive manner. You can get a good idea of their communication skills during the sales process--how attentive are they?
#7 : How will this accounting firm make you more profitable?
An accountant's job goes beyond data entry and number crunching. You'll want to know what systems and processes the accountant/firm has in place to help your business become more profitable. You want more than a spreadsheet with numbers. You want a plan. Look for someone who has a track record of making clients profitable.
#8 : Are they honest?
Beware of the easy/quick-fix. During the proposal/interview process, watch out for firms that promise to do ALL of the work for you. In reality, a firm should do about 85% of your accounting work for you. You should plan on doing 15% of the work which consists of reviewing work, approving reports and developing profitable strategies. Make sure they give you a proposal of what they can/can't do.
#9 : How are they different?
What drew you to the accountant/firm in the first place? What stood out to you?
#10 : What do you want out of the partnership?
Are you looking for accounting services for the next year, five years, ten years? How long will they be able to support you as your company grows? Are you looking for a long-term partnership, or someone to temporarily free up some of your time? Will the accountant/firm you are interviewing be able to support your goals and expectations over a certain period of time?
If you ask these 10 questions, you'll be able to have a good idea if an accountant/firm is a good fit for your growing small business.
Still have more questions? Here's some answers if you're interested in outsourcing your accounting:
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Editor's note: this article is an updated version of a post from October 2013. You can view the original article here.