Choosing the right accountant for your small business
Choosing an accountant can be like choosing a dentist for small businesses. You know you have to do it, but you would rather spend your hard earned cash on something more enjoyable.
But that’s just because you haven’t found the best accountant for YOUR small business.
Going back to the dentist. I really like my dentist. I can get an appointment quickly when I need it. He sends me timely reminders but doesn’t give me a hard sell on teeth whitening or anything else that I don’t want. He’s local, I can park easily outside his surgery, he’s got a nice smile and best of all his breath doesn’t smell. Trust me, that’s important!
All this means I’m happy to see my dentist regularly, preventing problems before they arise. Just what you need to achieve with your accountant.
So how do you find an accountant for your small business that you actually enjoy visiting, here are my top tips.
Listen – You need to find an advisor that’s willing to spend the time to listen and find out about the problems and plans you have for your business. Most firms will offer an initial free consultation, use this time to check whether your potential advisor can listen, invite questions and not just talk at you.
Communicate – They need to be able to communicate in clear plain English. They need to be able to find out your goals, whether that’s saving tax or securing funding and explain how you can achieve them in a way that’s easy for you to understand and trust.
Proactive– Try to find someone who encourages regular contact, do they offer unlimited email support. Look for an advisor that is interested in what your long term plans for the business are. Can they help you achieve them in a tax efficient way? If you are thinking of using cloud accounting software like Xero, check your prospective accountant supports it and encourages system changes that will make your life easier.
Fees – Cheapest may not be the best. If you are cost conscious look for a fixed fee contract and check what is included in the fee. But be wary if the price they are offering is much lower than the competition. Check they are qualified and affiliated with one of the main accountancy bodies such as ICAEW or ACCA. All members of these groups have to demonstrate they keep up to date with training and hold relevant insurance.
Referral – Good idea, but make sure you establish their reasons for recommendation. Some people will consider it good that their ‘accountant’ does not need any receipts or records from the client as they can make the expenses up for them. This approach won’t help you when you’re in front of the tax inspector.
Likeability – Underpinning it all though, you need to feel comfortable talking about your passion, your small business. Just like me with my dentist, when I see his nice smiling face I can relax and that makes my time in the dentist chair a whole lot easier.