Disclaimer: Use this list to grade your current accountant. If they don’t pass, it may be time to look elsewhere.
1) Not too aggressive, not too conservative
Everyone knows, or has at least has heard of, that accountant who seems a little shady. These accountants are willing to do whatever the client asks, even if it is borderline illegal. But then on the opposite end of the spectrum you have the ultra-conservative accountant. They won’t ever take an aggressive position, even if it is within the confines of the law. You need an accountant who is a good balance between these two. Everything they do/recommend is 100% legal but they are willing to be more aggressive where the law allows.
2) Explain things on your level
Most people outside of the accounting profession don’t understand accounting. That’s okay. I don’t know the first thing about engineering or fixing a car. However, a good accountant should be able to break things down so you can understand them. If they constantly have to use accounting jargon to explain themselves or sound smart, go find someone else.
3) Entrepreneurial spirit
In life, it is always refreshing to find someone that can relate to you, right? Choosing an accountant is no different. If your accountant can understand what owning a business is all about, that builds an immediate bond.
4) Fees, fees and more fees
There are two main ways an accountant can charge you. They can work on a fixed fee basis in which you know exactly how much you will be paying and what services you are getting. Or they can work on an hourly basis and charge you for each hour worked. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Just make sure you understand how they are charging you and what you are getting for your money.
5) Don’t forget to shop around
So you finally decide that you need an accountant or need a new accountant. You walk into the first accountant’s office, have an hour conversation and leave knowing he is your guy. While this may be true, I would recommend at least having a conversation with a few other accountants before you decide. This will give you a good baseline and help affirm your decision.
6) Meeting deadlines
Deadlines are extremely important for a business owner. If your accountant needs to prepare a report or complete a project by a certain date, it needs to be done. Speak with other clients of the accountant about the accountant’s timeliness and turn-around time on things.
7) Point of contact
Chances are your initial contact with a new accountant will be with a partner or someone very high up in the organization. Make sure you find out who you will be working with on a consistent basis. Working with lower level staff may be okay, but it is something you need to know before making your decision.
Everyone has heard someone say “I can’t get a hold of my accountant” or “my accountant never calls me back”. This should never be the case. Will your accountant be able to take your phone call or answer your email right away every single time? Of course not. But there is no excuse for them to ignore you or take forever to get back to you. Ask to speak with some of their current clients to see if this is an issue or not. Keep in mind they will most likely give you their best clients so if this seems like an issue at all, move on.
Laws are changing all the time. Technology is transforming the business world. Your accountant needs to stay on top of both of these if they want to provide you the best service possible. Discuss with your accountant some of the processes they use and also the software packages they utilize. Even if you don’t know what they’re explaining, it shows them that you’re going to involved and provides accountability.
10) Personal connection
This one gets overlooked. Your accountant is going to play a vital role in the success of your business. It needs to be someone that truly cares about your business and will give it to you straight. I am not saying that you need to be best friends, but there needs to be a mutual respect for each other as well as a certain level of transparency. If you don’t feel that connection right away, it may be best to look for other options.
Finding a new accountant can really be a daunting process; hopefully these 10 things will help guide you in your future search.
Check out this article on why it may be time to start that search: Your Most Damaging Mistake