So, you’ve made the decision to hire an accountant for your business. Surely it’s just a case of choosing a firm nearby and making sure they’re not too expensive, right?
Well, you could do that but, as with most things in business, it pays to do some research first. Will you want regular face-to-face contact? Do you have preferences on the accounting software they use? Would you prefer to pay a flat fee or on an hourly basis?
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider. To help you make the right decision we’ve put together this handy guide to finding the right accountant.
Location, location, location
Before the world went digital, most businesses chose to work with an accountant who was located nearby. That way it was easy to catch up, deliver paperwork, and get ad hoc advice at short notice.
Of course, those things are still relevant today. And if face-to-face contact is one of your priorities a local accountant is still a viable option, however, don’t discount some of the larger national accountancy brands who can offer face-to-face appointments at their regional offices.
Thanks to the digital revolution, you now have many more options at your fingertips. So, as long as you’re happy to communicate electronically or over the phone, you can find an accountant that suits your specific requirements.
Qualified for success
In the UK it’s possible for anyone to call themselves an accountant, even without any qualifications. And if you’re only looking for someone to carry out basic bookkeeping and tax form-filling, then an unregulated accountant might be just fine.
However, for most businesses, a chartered accountant with a recognised qualification is a much better choice. They’ll add value to your business from the start, and you won’t have to worry about finding someone more experienced when the business starts to grow.
There are three professional accounting qualifications in the UK: ACA, ACCA, and CIMA. Each is globally-recognised, and guarantee you a high standard of knowledge from your accountant, so look for these certifications from the outset.
It’s easy to think that any qualified accountant with plenty of experience will be right for you. But, it’s worth digging a little deeper to find someone with sector-specific knowledge in your industry.
Also try to seek out an accountant who regularly works with businesses that are a similar size to yours. For example, if your company is a 4-person startup, working with someone who primarily deals with the accounts of multinational corporations might not be the wisest choice. Likewise if you’re a contractor, take a look at the specialist contractor accountants available.
As an extra bonus, having knowledge of any potential accountant’s client list will paint a pretty good picture of how they have helped clients grow, and whether they work with other respected businesses in your field.
Get with the program
Before choosing an accountant to work with, it’s worth finding out what software package they use. They will probably use one type of software exclusively, and if you’ve already set yourself up on another platform, you’ll likely to run into problems at some point.
Of course, you might find that your potential accountant is willing to work with your chosen software over their usual choice. If that’s the case, you’re in luck. But bear in mind that they might take longer to work with software they’re not familiar with – and that could mean a bigger bill for you.
Use people power
We’ve already talked about how the digital world has made it easier to find the right accountant. But it’s also great for getting recommendations from your peers, too. Online communities such as LinkedIn and Twitter are excellent tools when trying to make an informed choice.
Similarly, attending events run by local business forums and chambers’ of commerce will allow you to bend the ear of business owners like yourself. As we discussed earlier, staying local will limit your choices, but it’s certainly an avenue worth exploring.
Don’t forget to talk fees
You’ll find that different accountants charge fees in several different ways. They may work by hourly rate, monthly retainer, set annual fee, or percentage of earnings.
None of these is particularly better than the others, but you might have a preference that suits your business. Ask the question before taking them on, so everyone is clear.
It also goes without saying that you should get all fee agreements written and signed before work commences. Any reputable accountant will agree to this and if they don’t, walk away. After all, if they’re not scrupulous with contracting, do you really want to trust them with your finances?
A good accountant is a valuable asset for any business. Not only will they help to untangle any financial knots, they’ll also help to advise on critical business matters. So invest the hours, do your research, and you’ll find an accountant that will help your business bloom.
Take a look at our Supplier Directory to identify a suitable accountant for your requirements.
You may also find the following guides helpful: