Choosing an Accountant: What to Look for and what to Avoid

Picking the right accountant is one of the most important decisions a small business can make. In fact, according to the ICAEW, hiring an accountant can be even more important than taking on a new member of staff. Why? Because whilst a good one can save you time and help your business to grow, a bad one could end up costing you a lot of much-needed money. But with so many accountancy practices out there, selecting the right one for you, isn’t so straightforward.

In this guide I want to look at four of the most important factors you should be considering when hiring an accountant.

What are their qualifications and are they regulated?

One of the first things you should ask your potential new accountant is what their qualifications are and if they are regulated by a professional body. Tasks such as bookkeeping, preparing tax returns and general financial management might not require a certified or chartered accountant and as long as they can do the job, a lot of people think accreditation isn’t important. But it can be really important further down the line and it’s always best to future-proof for when your business grows or if you are ever audited.

Do they have the relevant experience?

It goes without saying that the more experience an accountant has, the more value they will be able to bring to your business. But it’s also important to choose someone who has the right experience. For example, you might need someone with experience preparing tax returns and financial documents for companies of a similar size and revenue to yours, or you might want to work with an accountant who has experience with companies in a similar sector, as they will have a deeper understanding of the unique needs of your business.

Is location important to you?

It used to be really important to people to have an accountant who was close by, however in today’s digital world, more and more companies are using cloud-based technology. Cloud accounting means that wherever you or your accountant are, you can view the same data at exactly the same time, so you aren’t restricted location-wise when searching for the right accountant. However, if you’re someone that prefers to have face-to-face contact, you’re probably better off limiting your search to within your local area.

Can they do more than just balance the books?

Most people think that all an accountant does is look after tax. But that’s only a small part of what a good accountant could and should be doing for your business. A proactive accountant will help in other ways too, whether it’s locating investors, finding grants and helping you to save as much money as possible. It’s not just about balancing the books – your accountant should be a trusted advisor who makes informed decisions based on the best way to move your business forward.

When hiring an account, it’s important to interview several candidates before you make a final decision and weigh up all your options to find someone who is the very best fit for you. Do your research: make sure you do background checks, ask for references and negotiate fees. Most importantly, take your time when making the decision – it’s not something that should be taken lightly, but as long as you choose wisely, you really can’t go wrong.

About the Author: Richard Symonds is the director and founder of Bristol based Trust Local and has been helping create growth opportunities local businesses since 2011. Richard has years of experience helping companies across a range of sectors build networks and establish trust amongst their customer base. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

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