Whether you are a new business or have been around a while, all businesses need accounting at some point. While hiring an accountant isn’t mandatory, having one can be a great benefit for your business. Whether its regular bookkeeping, taxes, consulting, or planning, an accountant can be an invaluable resource. Finding a reliable and credible accountant can sometimes be the difference between success and failure; an accountant’s insight and expertise can help provide much needed guidance as your business grows. Accountants many times can be like snowflakes: unique in each one’s approach, using different tools, and sometimes even cold to the touch! How do you find one that is a good fit for you and your business? Here are some things to consider when choosing a good accountant for your small business.
What will the accountant do?
The first step is to decide what your accountant will be doing for you. Will they only be doing the tax return, or will they also be providing you with monthly bookkeeping services and generating financials? Will they be doing analysis and incorporating key performance indicators (KPI’s)? What software do they use? Do they use apps to help make accounting processes more efficient? Do you do you own books and need them to be reviewed periodically? We always suggest handling both the bookkeeping as well as the tax functions for our clients. Doing both gives us (the accountants) a more well-rounded perspective of the business and while we are doing financials may encounter opportunities that can help during tax time, which allows for regular tax planning, rather than be handed a profit and loss statement and a balance sheet and be directed to “work miracles!” without spending any time with the financials throughout the year. It also ensures that the financials are accurate when we are working on taxes. We have had some business owners claim that they are quite capable of handling the books throughout the year. When we get the financials at tax time there are negative expenses and have six different subaccounts for meals and entertainment! If your business is making widgets, it’s safe to say you didn’t start your business to do books. A trusted accountant should be involved with the business on a regular basis. They can provide ways to run the business more efficiently and find strategies to increase the business’ bottom line.
What are your goals?
When we meet with prospective clients, this is one of the first questions that we ask. More than anything, the ability of an accountant to listen to their clients is just as important as what they say to their clients. This holds true from the first initial meeting all the way to the rest of the relationship with the business. An accountant shouldn’t be selling just to secure the client but should listen for what the client is asking for and try to address those needs and concerns. For our part, we try to address the goals of the client while also still providing options of different services that might help to meet and accomplish those goals. As a business owner, make sure you’re getting the services to better run your business, but not services you don’t want or need.
Accountants are also teachers
Aside from maintaining the financials, preparing tax returns, and providing financial guidance for a business to succeed, another part of an accountant’s job is to educate clients. This holds especially true for small business clients. An accountant can teach a client how to setup a new business, the best entity for taxes, how to get started on the rights foot, how to run more efficiently, how to track and reduce expenses, how to be more profitable, etc. We have even given advice on ways to market a business and get more customers. So it goes without saying (even though we are kinda saying it!) that it’s important to have someone that will take the time to educate their clients. An accountant should be a resource for a client on areas that they are unclear on. Having this benefit helps to make them a better business and increase their chance of success as well as the odds that they will remain a long-term client!
What about cost?
As with any business expense, cost is usually one of the chief considerations. Many accountants in recent years attempt to sell their services based on “value”, but that can be very subjective. What I value and what you value may be two entirely different things. Pricing on value suggests that the client is receiving more in services that their actual cost if priced separately. However, if there are things in those packages that aren’t needed or wanted, how valuable is it?
Others charge by the hour. In the accounting industry, this is becoming less and less common. The cost is tied to time, so there is an advantage to the client if the accountant can work quickly on what they are working on (how much time they are spending). The downside for the client is that the accountant is incentivized to spend as much time working on a particular client to maximize the fee to the client.
Our pricing is tied to two factors: annual revenue and entity type. Entity is a consideration, because providing accounting services to a business that is a sole proprietor is more often less work than doing a corporation or a partnership, for example. Our firm specializes in small businesses that generate between $0-500k revenue (though we do bigger clients as well). We have found that gross revenue is a consistent metric to measure the accounting activity. We have 4 different level of pricing based on specific levels of revenue. This is because providing accounting services for a business that makes 300k a year will more than likely take more work than a business that makes 75k per year. We keep our costs low by offering core accounting/bookkeeping services and if a client wants anything beyond that, they have that option to upgrade to it. And with accounting packages starting at $90/month, we feel that it’s affordable for any business to afford, regardless of size. Additionally, we do not force our clients into services they do not want or need, and they have the ultimate control over what is provided.
We recommend that you shop around. Look at websites of different firms to see if they have pricing listed (We do!). Get a sample of what each firm offers and what they charge for those services. Please note that the cheapest isn’t always the best route. Likewise, the most expensive isn’t always the best either. Try to find a balance of cost and what the firm will do to help your business.
What do other clients say about them?
One of the best ways to find if an account could possibly be the right one is to see what other clients have said about them. Start with Google. Do they have a good amount of reviews? Do they have a website? Does it look like it would be a good fit for your business? Also look at Facebook, Yelp, and the QuickBooks find a Proadvisor website. What do they say about their values, their relationship with clients, and how personable they are and what they do for their clients. Most accountants offer a free consultation in which you can further go over your situation and what you’re looking for. Ask questions! What industries do they serve? Ask if they provide client referrals. Sometimes clients are willing to speak to other potentials to share their experience.
Please see our pricing at www.infinityaccounting.com/pricing
QuickBooks also has a resource of their accountants at https://quickbooks.intuit.com/find-an-accountant/