It’s time to have “the talk.” Before you hire an accountant for your small business, you’re going to need to have a little chat. Push the resumes aside—things are about to get personal.
Okay, it’s not going to be that dramatic, but there are important questions you need to ask before hiring an accountant. An accountant is much like a hairstylist—the damage is done once you make the decision, so you need to get it right from the get-go.
Your accountant will have a lot of responsibilities:
- Ensuring your books are up-to-date and compliant with regulations
- Advising you on tax-related concerns like tax breaks and reductions
- Preparing tax returns and guaranteeing on-time payments
- Generating, interpreting, and explaining financial reports to drive business decisions
- Working with you to develop cash flow forecasts and budgets
- And much more…
Yeah, that’s a heavy burden. For this relationship to work, you need to have complete trust in your accountant. Schools attended, years of experience, and employment history are important considerations, but so are the details about the individual. To truly get to know your accountant and whether you can trust them with your business financials, you need to ask these 6 questions.
1. What are your fees?
It doesn’t matter how talented an accountant is if you can’t afford them. Make sure you understand their rates and how you’re going to be billed. Will they charge you based on time or project? Will quick phone calls and emails cost money, too? Get all of these details upfront so there are no surprises down the road.
2. What’s your preferred method of communication?
Make sure you’re both aligned on how you’re going to communicate. Whether that’s by in-person meetings, phone calls, text, email, snail mail, whatever—ensure you’re comfortable with your accountant’s method of communication. Maybe you don’t like sending any business-sensitive information via email, but your accountant hates making phone calls—make sure you can find another alternative.
It’s ironic (or maybe not) that these first 2 questions resolve concerns over some of the most prevalent causes of divorce, too. Finances and communication—if you can’t agree on these 2, rethink starting the partnership with your accountant.
3. What services can you provide?
Accountants are more than bookkeepers. Yes, data entry and reconciliation are part of their wheelhouse, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Accountants are in a prime position to help with payroll, taxes, auditing representation, financial strategy, budgeting, and much more. Determine if your accountant has the experience to assist with more than just the books.
4. How can you help me make more money?
This question might seem brash, but it’s not out of left field. Ultimately, that’s the goal of an accountant—to help you save and make more money. Why else would you spend cash on an accountant if they weren’t somehow increasing your return on investment?
This question helps you identify if your accountant is on board with your business or just trying to make a quick buck. Dig deeper to find out if the accountant’s done their research into your financials. If they don’t have any answers come interview time, they might not be serious. But if they have some well-thought-out ideas on how to make you more money, there’s a good chance they’re invested in the success of your business.
5. Why should I hire you instead of someone else?
You deserve to ask this question. If you’ve been shopping around for an accountant, chances are you’ve seen a lot of resumes. They probably all look pretty similar. But that doesn’t mean the people behind the resumes are all similarly qualified and competent. Ask your accountant what makes them the best choice.
By asking this question, you can avoid the lame, awkward alternative, “What are your strengths?” You’ll learn not only what separates your candidate from the pool, but you’ll also discover what they think separates them from the rest.
6. What does a job well-done look like to you?
You should ask yourself this question first. If you hire the best accountant, what will their success look like for your business? There’s no right answer, but make sure your accountant’s answer matches your own. You should both be working toward the same goal.
Find Your 5-Star Accountant
There’s a good reason accountants are paid the big bucks—they’re worth it. Do your research, ask the hard questions, and be patient. A single 5-star accountant is worth much more than 10 mediocre ones.
Remember, the best accountant isn’t going to just be your numbers cruncher or journal junkie. They’re likely going to be one of your closest collaborators. You’re going to be working very closely with this individual, so be picky with who you choose. By asking the hard questions, you’ll sift through the humdrum and guarantee your accountant is the best of the best.