You are looking for an accountant for your business: you may have just started up, grown to a sufficient size to require professional advice or it is time to change from your current accountant. What criteria do you use to select your accountant? How do you make sure the accountant is the most appropriate for your business? How do you find them?
1. Understand your requirements. Before contacting any prospective accounting firms, reflect upon what you actually require. Do you need bookkeeping, accounting, tax advice, business planning, company or personal accounts etc? Split these in what you need immediately, and what you would like to have. Then ensure that the accountants you select provide your required services.
2. Locating the right accountant. Personal referrals from current clients are often the best way to a good accountant, as the client will have experienced the level of expertise, quality of service and charging policies. Therefore, ask your friends, associates in similar businesses or bank manager for recommendations.
3. Expertise of accounting practise. Some accounting practises specialise in specific sectors, however, many small local practices take on a variety of clients. If you require specialist advice, for example regarding CIS or exports, ask them if they have previous experience in the area, if they need to get up to speed in a particular area make sure they aren’t learning on your time. Ensure that your accountant is qualified, they may be a Chartered Accountant, Chartered Certified Accountant or Chartered Management Accountant.
4. How much should you pay? Ensure that the practice gives you clear price indications in advance, check if they offer fixed fees for standard services, how much are their hourly rates for additional work and what are their payment terms, for example do they offer payment via monthly retainers? You will find that prices between practices vary massively, sometimes you are indeed paying for greater expertise, but sometimes you may be contributing to their deluxe offices, so don’t be afraid to ask for quotes from a few accountants.
5. The right fit. If you have selected the right accountant you may be working with them for 20+ years, in your initial meeting with them (which most will offer for free), consider the following: do you find it easy to talk with them and do they explain things clearly; are they IT friendly, i.e use email, online systems (if you are at the cutting edge of IT and they are still completing tax returns manually may not be the best fit); do they commit to a service level e.g. time taken to return phone calls emails etc.
If you find the right accountant for your business they can easily become invaluable to your business; by helping you to structure your business most effectively, be as tax efficient as possible and help you implement the right tools to manage your business financially.