The services of a good accountant can be invaluable to your small business. He or she will help you navigate the maze of tax laws and provide the financial advice you need to manage and grow your business.
While we tend to associate accountants with taxes, keeping you abreast of tax changes and doing your taxes are not the only services a good accountant provides.
Whether you're wondering whether or not to incorporate your business or trying to decide if you should buy or lease a company vehicle, a good accountant will be able to tell you how such a move would affect your taxes and/or your business's growth. If you don't have an accountant working for your business, you need one! But how do you go about finding a good accountant?
1) Ask other business people about their accountants.
Find out who they use and how satisfied they are with the services their accountant provides. If you don't or can't get any worthy referrals using this method, use the phone book and choose several accounting firms. When you call, tell the receptionist what you do and ask for the name(s) of accountants familiar with your type of business. Use this information to create a shortlist of prospective accountants.
2) Call the four or five accountants you've selected and ask to discuss their services.
Ask him or her about his education (such as whether he's a CA or CGA), about his experience with your industry, and about his fees. Use this first contact information to choose two or three accountants to interview.
3) Prepare a short list of questions you want to ask prospective accountants.
It's important that you choose an accountant that is familiar with the special requirements of your business and/or your tax situation, so you can use these to vet potential accountants. For example:
- If your business is Internet related, you'll want to find out if the accountant is familiar with the language of e-commerce.
- If your business involves periods of work in the U.S., you need an accountant that's knowledgeable about the IRS and has experience completing U.S. tax forms.
- If you're thinking about exporting, ask how the accountant might help you develop an export strategy.
I always ask a question about their phone call and/or email policy. It's important that your accountant is easy to contact when you have a question. How accessible is he or she and how do they bill phone call or email advice?
4) Meet with the prospective accountant(s) you've chosen, and ask your questions.
There's nothing like a face-to-face meeting for gauging how well you might work with another person. Besides assessing the accountant's knowledge, see how comfortable you are with him or her and how well the two of you communicate with each other. When you choose an accountant for your business, you're going to be establishing a long term relationship, so feeling comfortable with him or her is important.
After all, an accountant isn't just a tax preparer; he or she can help you build a blueprint for the future of your business.