How to Choose the Right Accountant for Your Small Business
Committing to the wrong accountant can be as stressful and expensive to rectify as choosing the wrong spouse! However, as a small business owner, it may be the most important professional relationship you have, so it’s important to make the right choice, for the right reasons, from the outset!
Sean Daniel from Clear Vision Financial Management has put together this guide of essential factors to consider when choosing your accountant:
Firstly look for an accountant that is genuinely interested in your business and seems familiar with the market you operate in. When you make an initial enquiry, they should be asking you key questions about your business to get an understanding of your needs and where they can add value – what your business does, previous financial results, what your immediate business plans and objectives are – and not just giving you the hard sell on what they can offer!
Decide which services you require: are you only looking for your accountant to prepare your Statutory Accounts and Corporation Tax Return? Or perhaps your personal tax return too? Or maybe you require monthly management of your accounts to effectively manage and grow your business. Don’t forget, good accountants do much more than just prepare tax returns! They also provide audits, business performance, compliance, tax planning, business valuation, payroll, strategic advice…the list goes on.
Once you have decided which services you require, select an accountant that can offer all of these and more! In the future, as your business grows you will want to do less and less of the accountancy yourself – not because you are not capable but because it will be more cost-effective for your time to be spent in other areas of the business – so choose someone who can grow with your company.
This is more important than you may think! You don’t have to want to take your accountant on holiday with you, but you ought to at least feel comfortable calling them up and asking advice without feeling intimidated, confused or like you are bothering them. If you can find an accountant that is also fun and can make you laugh then you’ve hit the accounting jackpot!
Depending on the scope of works you require, your accountant will quote you either a fixed fee or an hourly rate. To compare prices when choosing between two or more accountants ask them for their hourly rates but in order to see how quick they work also ask them for average costs of set tasks – for example preparing Statutory Accounts or Corporation Tax Returns – for similar sized clients.
Once you’ve chosen your accountant, whenever they are working on an hourly rate you should ask them upfront for an estimate of time the task will take and to be kept informed if these are exceeded to avoid any nasty surprise bills!
Systems and Procedures
If you already have accounting software in place, make sure you find an accountant who is familiar with it. If you are a start-up or need a new system then see what they would advise to suit you – are you online-savvy and comfortable with a cloud-based software where both you and the accountant have online access; or do you prefer excel; or are you more comfortable with a system that involves a shoebox of receipts at the end of each month?! Whatever the system and procedure, make sure it is agreed upon at the outset and is workable for both of you.
Technology means that geographical closeness to your accountant is less of a factor than it used to be. However, there are benefits of working with a local accountant. Catching up at least once a year (preferably over lunch!) is vital to obtain the maximum value from your accountant.
Qualifications & Experience
It goes without saying that you should choose a qualified and registered Chartered Accountant, but also one who is experienced with other businesses of similar size and complexity to yours. Check also that they are registered with an accounting body (CIMA, ICAEW, ACCA) and have adequate Professional Indemnity Insurance.
For more information on the services CVFML can offer, please contact us directly.