Choosing the right accountant for your business
You are very likely to have a long lasting relationship with your accountant and taking time to choose the right one can save you a great deal of time and money. Follow these tips to choose the right one from the start.
What to look for in an accountant
Meet your accountant
This does not always have to be in person. I know of clients whose accountants are a 3.5-hour drive away so it’s not always practical to meet. However, they communicate by Skype and telephone and really feel it is the second best thing for being able to work with the accountant of their choice.
However, it is important to talk to them personally because you will know within seconds whether they are the right person for you – the Know, Like and Trust marketing principal works really well for choosing an accountant.
You have to feel comfortable with your accountant from the first meeting and not be afraid to ask them questions. Imagine you are interviewing someone for a job. Explain why you are in business and what your growth plans area. Get commitments for the fees, timescales and standards of service you expect to receive.
Look for an accountant who will be an asset to your business, and will help you plan ahead. Look for someone that shows an interest in the future of your business and takes the time to listen to your business aims and objectives.
One point that people underestimate is the importance of do you feel you can ask your accountant a ‘silly’ question and receive an answer that you can understand (jargon-free) and promptly. If the answer is no, you haven’t got the right accountant so keep looking.
Don’t go purely on price
If you first meet with an accountant who is reasonably priced and you feel totally comfortable with them, then trust your instinct. Or, if you want a benchmark, arrange a meeting with another one just to firm up your decision.
Most accountants do not charge for initial meetings. Look at what they bring to the meeting. For example, Kylie from KFH Accounting always turns up with a set of accounts (with example data) in them, which her clients will receive at the end of the tax year. That way they know in advance as to what their records will look like upon completion.
If you do decide to go with a firm, expect to pay more and be clear on finding out who will be doing your work. Often you’ll meet with a more senior member of the team but it may be a junior person doing the bulk of the work, so make sure you’re comfortable with that scenario.
If you want a more personal relationship, consider a sole practitioner – often cheaper than a high street firm but look for the qualified sole practitioners (registered with a recognised accounting body, ACCA, ICAEW, CIMA etc) as should there be an issue, you can always involve the Institute. Also look at how experienced they are, or ask them in the meeting what their background is. And don’t be afraid to ask for, and follow up on, references from their existing clients.[print-me]
This article has been written in conjunction with
Kylie Fieldhouse ACA CA (AUS)