How to find the right accountant. Hint, take your time to do your research and be comfortable in everything.
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, analyze your business financials, and save money on taxes.
“Whenever I consult with a potential client, I always 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 and not just your numbers.”
However, the wrong accountant can do the exact opposite and cost your company money. While it may be weird listening to an accountant telling you how to find the right one.
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. I am talking about how involved you want to be, how you want updates, how often you want those updates, do you want business growth, do you want suggestions, etc. Bookkeepers and accountants are all over. With today’s digital age, you don’t even need them to be local; we do everything remotely through technology. You also need to determine if you are ok with virtual services or outsourcing because not everyone is; there are still people out there who want someone in-house. Now in saying that, through time and research, I have found that you can find better experience and better service at a lower price by outsourcing to someone virtually who can generally service you just as if they were in your office with the right technology.
Next, you want to start looking for someone familiar with your type of business. With today’s bookkeepers and accountants, many of them 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 the apps out there, you can almost put the finances on autopilot with only a review. The value add and the place that a bookkeeper is highly beneficial are 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.
With that being said, make sure you find an accountant with 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 that you can’t protect 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 does and does not cover. For example, our policy does not allow us to talk to anyone about the business names, financial numbers, owner names, or practically anything unless the owner signs off approving it. All we can do is generalize and say we work for XX 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 to our client’s protections.
Understand how they work, when you expect information, what is expected out of you, how they will contact you, and their plans for your company? Understand what they expect of you because this is a two-way street. If they need information and can’t get it from you, they will be stuck without moving forward. However, they should be reaching out to you to get that information. That is why understanding how they work is best, and they should do the same for you. Some companies love to email; it is the most effective way to communicate a lot of information or provide documents quickly. Others prefer client portals that you log into; others want to talk with you on the phone. Understand what they will do if they have questions, but if something else works better, you don’t hesitate to request it. When to expect things, every good bookkeeper or accountant should say something like we aim to provide information by this date to set expectations for you on when to expect documents. Keep in mind, though, if they are waiting for something from you may delay this date.
One of the most important things is to talk with them about pricing and figure out their pricing model, services are still priced in many different ways, but hourly billing is still the most popular even with flat rate and Value Pricing gaining in popularity. Hourly billing is 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. It could take them 5 hours, but the next 25 and you are paying varying rates. If they mess up and have to go back and fix something, you are still on the clock and the line for paying for their mistake, which is not fair to you. Look for flat-rate pricing or value add pricing from your accountant as this will help you save money over the long term. The next thing you want to consider is the price, depending on where you live will depend on pricing. Larger towns tend to command a higher price than smaller cities. On average, in 2019, bookkeeping services averaged $69 per hour, with taxes being $123 per hour and consulting being $91 per hour. As this is an hourly rate, you may not see the break down from whomever you talk with but ask them how they came up with the pricing, how much time they think it will take, etc. and don’t be scared to offend them. They should be an open book to you.
With that being said, 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 and saving $50+ an hour. Unfortunately, with most CPA’s, they don’t even do your books. They have a bookkeeper (hopefully a certified one) doing the books for you but still charging their hourly rates. The CPA may look over it once a month or quarter, but you are still paying higher prices for someone to do everyday work that you could find elsewhere.
Please ignore their certifications when it comes down to hiring. You can have tons of certifications, but that doesn’t mean that you know what you are talking about. I see people all the time who are QuickBooks Pro Advisors telling you to do something that absolutely won’t work in QuickBooks or cutting corners and creating a huge mess. I have seen people certified in third-party apps suggest a fix, which is just a band-aid because they don’t take the time to research a proper fix. All that certification means is the software agrees that they know what they are doing as to what that company wants to see, not that they are familiar with it, and have real-life experience. 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, no matter the experience, no matter the security, what matters is finding someone who understands you, takes the time to understand your business, and is comfortable with it. There are people out there who are just interested in business talk and are very cold in general. 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. Figure out whom you like and what personality you prefer and run with it.
With all that being said, there are plenty of people out there 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; there is no perfect accountant or bookkeeper out there, no matter what anyone else says. Find the one that works for you. Even the best and the highest recommended person may not be the fit for you.
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