Depending on your previous experiences, your understanding of an accounting firm could be drastically different. Some accountants will do little beyond handling your accounts and completing your tax return forms. Other accountants are more involved and take a proactive approach to your needs. In some instances, you might find yourself as a small fish to a large firm and in others, your needs are well beyond a firm’s capabilities.
Just as the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, finding the right accounting firm requires a fit which is just right. Unfortunately, most business owners settle for a firm which don’t fit their needs, and fail to realize what other options could offer.
Know What You Need
All accounting firms can offer bookkeeping, billing, payroll, bank reconciliations, tax returns, and financial statements. The best companies can provide much more to your business. The best accounting firm for your needs will show an understanding of your specific industry, and are familiar with your unique challenges. They should be able to provide meaningful benchmarks against other similar companies and offer strategies to improve and strengthen your business.
It is important to find a firm that will act as a partner, and offer well-informed recommendations in a proactive manner. The right firm will not only solve your immediate issues, but will support your business by offering valuable insight to improve performance, solve compensation and benefits issues, and mitigate risk.
Understand What You Want
It is important to determine your requirements before selecting a firm. Your accountants might be the most important partnership you make as a business owner. A few essentials to consider are your budget, the services you must absolutely outsource, and the type of relationship you want with your accountant.
A helpful hint when talking with an accounting firm is to assess how much of the conversation was focused on your goals, and the goals of your organization. Has the conversation only revolved around specific services and cost? Chances are, you are talking with a firm only concerned with delivering the services you pay for and little else. While this might work for some businesses, it has a reactionary approach to challenges instead of proactively addressing needs as they related to your ultimate goals.
When searching for an accountant, the ideal candidate might be right under your nose. Start by asking any friends or family members who own businesses if they would recommend their accountant. It is important to ask a few detailed questions when you consult family and friends. Sure, they might recommend their accountant, but some light digging will discover they are actually getting less support than they need.
Also consider talking to other professionals who understand your business. One of your suppliers, your attorney or even a client could have a great accountant to recommend. If you ask businesses who are closely aligned with your industry, you are more likely to find firms who have a deeper understanding of your unique challenges.
If you are not able to discover an accounting firm through referral, there’s nothing wrong with hitting the internet. Browse websites and social media to get a feel for the firms available. More than just flashy images and colors, explore what type of information they are sharing to guide and educate their market. Do they sound like they know what they’re talking about?
Conducting the Search
Do not expect the first accounting firm you find to meet all of your needs. It is best to interview four to five different options to make the best choice. Hold two different meetings with each potential firm. It is important to meet at both your location and their location. Both parties benefit from knowing the environment of the other’s work.
Be sure to meet with the staff members who will be servicing your account. Often, the person you meet with will not be the only one servicing your account. You will want to be comfortable with all the people who are actually handling your financial matters before you make a final decision.
Checking references is often the most insightful step in making your selection. If a client only receives basic services, their reference will likely be a bit underwhelming. On the other hand, if a client can speak to the impeccable service and effectiveness of an accounting firm, you can expect a similar experience with your account.
A good accountant can help your business in ways you never imagined. The value of a partnership with your accountant should not be overlooked. After all, your accountant has the best pulse on the health of your business and can offer strategic advice to drive success. The right accounting firm can likely use examples from other clients to help pave your path and guide smart decisions.
Do not take the decision lightly. Invest time and energy into finding the right accountant, as this might be the most important partnership to the future of your company.