The benefits of having a good accountant working with your business have been well documented but choosing an accountant is still a daunting process. There are just so many out there! While you may assume everyone is the same, each firm will have its own approach and its own complementary services.
Before signing on the dotted line with any one firm, ask them these questions to get a better feel for how they’ll be as a partner.
Have you worked with companies like mine before?
We like to think our business is unique, but companies working in a specific sector will face similar challenges. If you’re a tech startup, for example, there’s no point in working with a healthcare specialist accountancy firm because they may not know about the R&D credits you’re entitled to or other government incentives that can make your finances a little easier to handle. You want peace of mind that this accountant understands what you do and what you will need at every stage of your business.
As a follow up, ask them for references. At least a couple of these should be from businesses in your sector. If they have worked with companies like yours before, this shouldn’t be a problem.
How do you calculate your fees?
Just as the “companies like mine” question will show how much they understand your sector, questions around services and fee structures will let you see if it’s a one-size-fits-all approach or if they’ll tailor services to your needs.
Ask about their service approach - what is their process, for example, around annual filing time? Are they proactive (will they remind you), or are they more reactive (do you have to remind them)? This is important when choosing an accountant as if you’re the type who doesn’t do details, you will want an accountant who prompts you into action so you don’t miss deadlines.
Likewise, the fee structures are important as it will let you plan outgoings. When you compare accountants, make sure you ask accountants what exactly is included in that fee - and what isn’t.
How will we communicate?
Some accountants will get super busy at the end of the financial year; others are freely available year-round. Some will have a dedicated point of contact for you, while others will have a team of people working on your account.
When you compare accountants, the communication question is important because it gives insight into what you can expect. You also want to make sure you can communicate with your accountant in a way that suits you and your business.
How can you help my business grow both in size and profit?
At the end of the day, we’re in business to grow and make money; your accountant will be an essential part of this task. If you’re choosing an accountant just based on the fees they charge for filing annual accounts, you could be missing out on a range of added-value services now offered by good accountants.
Does this accountant offer business planning support? Will they advise you on tax efficiencies and government subsidies? Will they only be available for reporting season, or will they be able to guide you all year round? Ask the potential accountant point-blank what they will do to help you make more money. You may get some surprising answers.
Why should I hire your firm?
You may well end up with a marketing spiel in answer to this one, but asking it is still important to compare accountants effectively. See what the accountant believes their USP is. See how it matches the answers you’ve been given so far and what you believe you need from an accounting firm. Also make sure to ask what qualifications they have as part of any discussion about credentials. When choosing an accountant, you want to hear about the professional bodies they belong to and the all-important letters after their name.
Of course, a good accountant can help your business to thrive, but choosing an accountant can be a difficult thing. PROfiltr takes the pain out of finding a good accountant; get your free quotes here.