Finding the right Accountant or Bookkeeper
Finding the right accountant or bookkeeper is one of the hardest things you will do for your business. The right accountant can help you find cost-saving measures, better analyze your business, and save money on taxes. However, the wrong accountant can do the exact opposite and cost your company money. Whenever I consult with a potential client, I tell them that I may not be suitable for them and that they need to feel comfortable with me. For me, the client relationship is more than dollar signs; it’s about a personal and business connection where I get to know you and your business, not just your numbers.
WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
The first step in finding an accountant is to figure out precisely what you are looking for, and I don’t mean someone to take care of it for you. Instead, I’m referring to your expectations – How involved do you want to be? How often do you want updates from me? Are you looking to grow your business? Would you like suggestions on how to do so from an industry-insider perspective?
Bookkeepers and accountants are all over the country. In today’s digital age, you don’t need them to be local; they can effectively serve you from anywhere. With that said, you need to determine if you are okay with virtual services or outsourcing because not everyone is; there are still people out there who want someone in-house. Through time and research, I have found that superior experience and better service are available at a lower price simply by outsourcing your bookkeeping needs to a virtual bookkeeper.
LOOK FOR SOMEONE WHO SPECIALIZES IN YOUR INDUSTRY
Next, you want to start looking for someone familiar with your type of business. Many of today’s bookkeepers and accountants specialize in a specific industry to provide industry insights for you and your business and not just handle the finances. With QuickBooks Online and all available integrations, you can almost put the finances on autopilot with only a review. Perhaps the most added value of an industry-specific bookkeeper is the advice they can give you. Suppose you are an HVAC company, and they work with 30 other HVAC companies. In that case, they can provide insights into how other companies are performing and what they are doing.
CONFIDENTIALITY IS KEY
No matter whom you’re considering to do your books, always ensure a prospective firm or practice has a strong NDA or Non-Disclosure Agreement. Your information is only as safe as the person who can see it. While there are some things you can’t shield your data from (the IRS or court orders), you don’t want someone talking about your company all over the place. Ask about their privacy policies and what it covers. For example, our policy does not allow us to speak to anyone about the business names, financial numbers, owner names, or anything without the owner’s written approval. All we can do is generalize and say we work for X number of HVAC companies. We see a trend, or your GPM (gross profit margin) is high compared to others. However, we cannot say anything specific about our client’s protections.
When zeroing in on your new bookkeeper, make sure to have these important questions answered:
- When do you expect to receive information from them?
How/when will they contact you?
- Does this work for you?
What are their plans for your company?
- Does this line up with your current plan?
What is expected from you?
Understanding their expectations of you is vital if you want them to do a timely job. If they’re stuck waiting for information from you to continue their work, it should be incumbent upon them to reach out to you. It’s also important to inform them of your preferred communication method (phone or email) so that you can effectively communicate. Every good bookkeeper or accountant should set a time expectation with you. This expectation can be as simple as something like:
- We aim to provide information by this day of the month
- We aim to return all correspondence within X business days
In any event, you should know precisely when to expect to hear from your bookkeeper.
DON’T FALL FOR HOURLY PRICING
One of the most important things to talk with a potential bookkeeper about is pricing. How transparent is it? Do they offer flat-rate pricing, value pricing, or hourly pricing? Hourly billing is a prevalent method, but it’s not the way you want to go. This is usually the most expensive method and gives you nothing to budget off throughout the year. One month, your bookkeeper could take 5 hours to close the books. The following month it could take them 15. If they make a mistake and have to go back and fix it, the meter is running. It will cost you more money for the same amount of work. Look for flat-rate pricing or value add pricing from your accountant as this will help you save money over the long term. Next, you want to consider the price depending on where you will depend on pricing.
Higher professional certifications demand higher prices. If you go to a CPA to do your books, they will charge you CPA prices instead of going to a Certified Bookkeeper. This could cost you upwards of an additional $50 per hour. Even at that price, most CPAs won’t do your books personally! They have a bookkeeper (hopefully a certified one) doing the books for you but still charging their hourly rates. The CPA may review your account once a month or quarter, but you are still paying more than you should.
LOOK PAST THE FLUFF
Certifications aren’t everything when it comes down to your next bookkeeper. Being a good test-taker doesn’t automatically make you a brilliant accountant. I’ve consulted with scores of clients who came running from a “certified” CPA or bookkeeper. I have seen people certified in third-party apps suggest a fix that amounts to a band-aid because they don’t take the time to research a proper spot. A certification is a piece of paper that denotes you as a good test-taker, not a good accountant. Take time to quiz them and get them to explain a game plan to you for how they plan to run your account for you. This process is as much about them finding out about your business as it is for you to investigate them and find out about them.
Ultimately, no matter the price, experience, or security, finding someone who understands you takes the time to understand your business and is comfortable with it. Unfortunately, some people are interested in business talk and are generally very cold. This can be great for some people, others are super personal and want to know about you and your kids and treat you like a good old friend, and others just fit in between. So figure out whom you like and what personality you prefer and run with it.
IT HAS TO FEEL RIGHT
With all that being said, there are plenty of people to pick from for this position; find what works for you. Take your time to do your research and be comfortable in everything. This is a significant decision as the wrong choice can cost you; no perfect accountant or bookkeeper is out there, no matter what anyone else says. Find the one that works for you. Even the best and highest recommended person may not be the fit for you.
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