It’s only numbers, right? How hard could it be? Think again. Your choice of an accountant can have a lasting impact on your business, often making the difference between success and failure. If you’re an entrepreneur just launching your first small business, you’ll likely need start-up accounting services, as well as ongoing accounting support to grow your business into the future.
Whether you’re new to the game or an old hat, you need to first know what you don’t know. Then you can better determine whether a prospective accountant meets the needs of your small business. Here’s a checklist of what you should be asking your potential accountant or accounting firm before trusting them with the keys to your business finances:
How experienced are you with entrepreneurship and small businesses?
It goes without saying maybe that you want to hire an accountant who understands the challenges of entrepreneurs and small businesses. An accounting firm may have worked with some of the biggest corporations in the world, but if they haven’t served the needs of entrepreneurs and start-ups, they probably won’t have a feel for your particular set of accounting issues. The right accountant can help you launch your business and grow it in the direction and at the pace you envision.
How well do you know my industry?
Accounting, and especially tax preparation, can vary greatly from industry to industry. An accountant who has always worked, for example, in the offshore fishing industry isn’t likely to know a whole lot about the accounting needs of your solar panel supply company in Kansas. You’ll be best served to hire an accountant who has at least some knowledge of the industry in which your businesses operates. Such an accountant makes sure you receive the tax deductions you deserve and that you’re making the right decisions when it comes to capital expenditures, inventory, office leasing and other financial matters.
What particular services do you offer?
As a start-up, you’ll likely rely on an accountant for many different accounting services. Whether you’re intention is to be a sole proprietor, LLC, partnership, or corporation, each of these structures has separate tax reporting implications. Accountants can supply valuable advice when it comes to structuring your small business.
In addition to tax preparation and audit defense, you may be looking for accounting help with bookkeeping, setting budgets, assessing businesses risks or valuing your business. You’ll want an accountant that can meet all – not just some – of your business accounting needs. For more expert help in forming or growing your business, check out incorporate.com.
Who will I be working with?
Few things are worse than encountering, day in and day out, the anonymous face of a company you’ve hired to give you personalized service. When accounting firms shuffle you off to any number of first-year hires, swapping them out like the batteries in your TV remote, it’s hard to feel like they really care about your business. In most cases, you’ll want to have access to the actual accountant who’s working on your business account. And if that accountant is higher up in the firm, that’s all the better. For this reason, you might be best served by a firm that can offer you a true business partnership and more personalized service.
How can I expect to pay for your accounting services?
Do you bill per hour? If so, how much is it? Or does it depend on the service? Do you charge for phone calls and emails regarding incidental questions? If you don’t bill by the hour, do you command a monthly retainer? Or do you bill by the project?
Most business accountants do charge by the hour, giving you a pretty fair comparison of what you might expect to pay competing firms for accounting services. Keep in mind, though, that the most expensive firm may not necessarily offer you the best service. In fact, you would do best to shop around, looking for an accounting firm that can fulfill your small business accounting needs at the most reasonable price. Trust your instincts on this. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.