Finding the right accountant or bookkeeper can be a daunting job.
If you’re looking for an accountant, chances are that accounting is an unfamiliar concept to you. Trusting your books with a new accountant can feel overwhelming, especially since the penalties for getting it wrong can be severe. So how do you find a good one? That may be a little bit of a loaded question. If you haven’t guessed already, I’m an accountant. Still, I run into this issue all the time. I tell every one of my prospective clients that I may not be the person for them. I find that being upfront with my clients in this way is vital because we need to be comfortable and understand each other.
The first place to start is to gain a basic understanding of the accounting industry today compared to the past. For years, your bookkeeper had to be in an office. Your accountant needed to be someone local that you could quickly visit. This is no longer the case. With the advent of cloud-based technology, you can be better served by a remote or virtual bookkeeper. Now that most reputable accounting systems have moved to the cloud, they provide better security, access, and functionality than ever. Thus, virtual accountants have started to pop up all over the place. This is great because you have more options than ever before, but sometimes more options can be overwhelming.
Top tips when choosing a new bookkeeper or accountant.
- Look for someone who specializes in your business. By choosing an industry-specific practice, your accountant can help compare you to industry benchmarks and provide insight into how their other clients are successful. An industry-specific accountant can speak specifically about your industry – they know your lingo and what you want to achieve. Rather than generalizing, you will have details you want to know about your business. An accountant specializing in your industry typically has insider contacts for software, insurance, and financing.
- Find a firm or an accountant, not a company. Above, I referenced how important it is that your accountant knows you. There are plenty of large corporations which provide basic bookkeeping services. You are just a number to these companies, not a person. You will inevitably talk to a different person each time who is unfamiliar with you and your company. They will not fully understand your business, they don’t care about your goals, and their only job is to solve your issue and move on to the next in the queue. This situation is great for new businesses with little to no cash flow because they are cheap but should never be a long-term solution because you get what you pay for. You want to find someone who understands your business and goals and picks up on the small things you wouldn’t consider.
- While accounting is about accuracy and information, it is also about relationships. Always find someone that you are comfortable talking to. A good accountant is not only knowledgeable but will always be able to provide an explanation you can understand. My goal is always to ensure that you know whatever we are talking about, no matter how complicated the concept is or how long it takes to break it down for you. A good accountant will also respect your time, which should be mutual. Your meetings should focus on what you need to be successful, and you should never feel rushed or insignificant during this time. Your accountant or bookkeeper should always ensure you understand key concepts. While an accountant should always be there to support your business, you’re ultimately liable for your financial statements.
- Take the time to quiz whomever you are looking for a new accountant. The search for a new accountant is an interview process, just like hiring an employee. Ask them about their process, their standards, their plans, their goals, their guarantees, their certifications and accreditation, and anything that you feel is relevant. They may not answer some off-the-wall questions, but the things I highlighted above should quickly be answered and explained to you.
- Do not rush the process. The right person will take the time to interview you and find out about you when you are interviewing them. They will request information like bank statements, access to your accounting system, and other financial information to understand you better. If someone gives you a price without asking for this information, walk away. You want a new accountant to analyze your financial and bank statements for three reasons. First, they will identify any issues with the books. Second, they’ll make recommendations on how to rectify the issues. Finally, they’ll be able to give you an accurate price. This is very important to your success and long-term relationship with whomever you bring on. The process should take about a week from initial contact to finally getting an accurate quote.
- Understand their process and their guarantees. Knowing how your accountant or bookkeeper will provide you with information, how they prefer to receive information, and how often you can expect to communicate with them is crucial.
- Find someone technologically progressive. Like every other industry over the last ten years, the accounting field has undergone a significant technological shift. Find someone willing to use technology and embrace it to simplify their job. Efficiency means better service and sometimes a better price. It will get you better service and sometimes a better price. A modern bookkeeper will not only manage your books, but they will also manage the integrations that drive them. They will take over when the software is incapable, and handle any issues it may cause.
- Find someone comfortable with the software and systems that you use or want to use. Finding a bookkeeper familiar with your systems ensures they know how everything integrates and can prevent major issues from occurring. An accountant knowledgeable about your integrations is worth their weight in gold because they can save you thousands in cleanup costs and time.
Finding a good bookkeeper or accountant is not straightforward and should be taken seriously. A well-thought-out and considered decision can benefit you for years to come. On the other hand, a quick decision could cost you time and money. Take your time to get to know whom you are considering. Stay away from hourly pricing because you’re still paying even if they get it wrong. Don’t make a choice based solely on price – choose them based on your comfort level and their experience.
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