How to Choose an Accountant for a Small Business


The following article offers several suggestions for finding the best accountant or CPA for a new or growing small business.

A good accountant can be one of the most valuable professional advisors a business owner will hire. An accountant who is skilled and experienced can interpret the financial and operational data of a business and provide sound advice on where the business should go as well as how to maximize profit margins. Knowing how to choose a suitable accountant or CPA is, therefore, an important factor in running a successful business.

Moreover, since a hired accountant will be dealing with a lot of sensitive information about the business and its owner, it will be hard to switch to another person should the arrangement turn out to be unsuitable. The bottom line is: when choosing an accountant to work with a business, one should invest every effort right from the beginning to finding the best person for the job.

Tips for Choosing a Good Accountant:

Tip #1: First decide what responsibilities and functions the accountant will have. If a business is looking for someone to just keep financial records, produce reports, and file taxes, then a standard bookkeeper would be a more practical (and cheaper) option. In such a case, the business could also acquire any of the versatile and easy-to-use accounting software packages currently in the market, such as MYOB and Quickbooks, (or the free opensource alternatives) to do the work in-house.

If, however, the business is still in the start-up stage, was recently established, or is expanding, then a qualified accountant, CPA, or CPE with complete CPE Hours is a better option.

Tip #2: Consider taking an accountant who is CPA certified. Hiring a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is definitely a safer option for a small business. In order to get the certification, a CPA must fulfill certain education requirements, pass State-administered tests to prove competency, and pass periodic re-certification exams. Certain situations, such as audits and many loan applications, require CPA involvement. For more information and help locating a CPA, check out the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants or the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

Tip #3: Look for an accountant who knows the industry. Ideally, the accountant should be familiar with the types of transactions the business is involved with and has experience working with small businesses in general.

Tip #4: Ask for referrals and be sure to speak to at least three of them. The business owner should try to insure that the person being hired is competent and trustworthy. Get information from referrals as well as the local Chamber of Commerce.

Tip #5: Look for someone local. An accountant who works in the area will be familiar with the community in which the business is located which is good for networking (see below). It will also make a face-to-face meeting with this person logistically easier.

Tip #6: Do not hire someone without first conducting an interview. A business owner should make sure to meet a potential accountant face-to-face before agreeing to hire the person. Aside from qualifications and experience, the accountant’s personality and style should also be important considerations.

Questions to Ask an Accountant on an Interview:

1. Is the accountant a qualified CPA?

2. Does the accountant have knowledge about the industry or field?

3. What kind of business advice can the accountant offer?

4. Is the accountant familiar with current technology, and how will the accountant’s data be merged with the system currently being used in the business?

5. Who has the accountant worked for in the past and who are the current clients?

6. How much does the accountant charge?

7. What additional services or experience can the accountant offer?

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