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by | Apr 18, 2016 | 4 comments

When I first decided to start a business, the first thing I did was to go and speak to my accountant.

We had been with our current accountant for almost 10 years so I trusted him and knew that he would be the best person to speak to when it came to how to set up & structure my new business venture. He guided me and answered questions and then supported me with my tax returns and investment questions.

But not everyone feels this way about their accountant. I know many people feel belittled by their accountant or they feel like they aren’t getting the attention they need or they simply feel like they’re paying too much for too little.

The thing is, that if you’re in business and you’re serious about your business, there are certain people that you absolutely need to have on your team and an accountant is one of them. An accountant is a non-negotiable and just hiring the tax guy down the road isn’t really going to cut it for you long term.

You need a strategic partner – someone who will see your vision and help you find the best way to get there. So choosing the right accountant for your business is key!

Unfortunately many accountants only want to deal with larger firms. Some accountants feel that a small solo business is a waste of their time and energy so if this is your experience, it’s really important to find an accountant who treats you like you matter. Like you are one of their most valued clients.

So what do you need to look out for when you’re hiring your accountant? Here are 6 tips. 

1) Qualifications  

Of course it goes without saying that an accountant needs to be appropriately qualified.

But have you ever checked?

When choosing an accountant, make sure that they are qualified through a professional accounting body, such as CPA Australia, Chartered Accountants or the relevant accounting bodies in your country.

2) Big or small

When you’re a sole practitioner, it might make more sense to hire an accountant who is a sole practitioner.

Going in for a larger firm can leave many solo business owners feeling neglected and undervalued.

That’s because a larger firm will be much more focused on the requirements of their larger clients. So it’s important to choose not only the best accountant for you, but also the accountant appropriate for the size of your business

3) Do they understand you?

Find an accountant who gets you. Someone who understands what you do, how you do it and why you do it. And if you can, hire an accountant who has some experience or expertise in your line of business. 

If your business is in retail, it makes more sense to hire an accountant who specialises in retail clientele.

If you have an online business, dealing with an accountant who understands the ins and outs of the online world will be much easier for everyone involved.

It’s not a pre-requisite but it certainly helps.  

4) Interview THEM!

Your accountant will have access to your personal files, your records and other important information about your business and your personal finances so it’s important that they become one of the most trusted people you work with. So ask the questions.

Do not be afraid of looking silly and do not allow yourself to feel intimidated. They are working for YOU. You need to ask the questions so that you are armed to make the best decisions for your future.

If you don’t know, ask.

If you don’t understand something, ask.

If they don’t explain things in a way that makes sense to you, if they speak in jargon and riddles or if they look annoyed by your questions, get the hell out of there!

5) Think long term

Maybe at the moment you only need your accountant to prepare your tax return and compile your end of financial year statements. But one day as your business grows, so will your needs.

And if you have the right, trusted accountant now, they will be there to give you the advice you need as you are growing rather than when you are in the midst of it all and totally stressed out. 

So choose your accountant with that long term vision. Just as you have long term goals and plans of growth for your business, having long term goals for your financial team is also important.

6) “But I have a bookkeeper”……

I’ve often been asked what the difference is between a bookkeeper and an accountant.

A bookkeeper is responsible for the recording of day to day financial transactions, reconciling your bank accounts, payroll and if they are a qualified BAS agent, they will also lodge your BAS returns.

An accountant is responsible for taking the summarised financial data provided by a bookkeeper and preparing your end of year financial reports and tax returns.

Having a bookkeeper who compiles all the information your accountant needs means that your accountants job will be a lot easier and therefore it will be more cost effective for you. However that doesn’t make your accountant obsolete. Your accountant can help your business with not only tax returns, but also with business and personal tax planning as well as business growth and business structure planning.

The most important thing to remember is that your accountant can become an integral part of your team, so don’t make this decision lightly or go with the cheapest option. 

Make sure that you feel 100% comfortable with them, they are delivering the service they promised you in a timely manner and that their values and approach to business is in line with yours. Like any good relationship, it can take time to develop but with mutual respect and proper communication, you will have a long lasting, long term relationship as your business grows.

4 Comments

  1. Naomi Arnold

    Great article Sylvia, thank you! Any recommendations while you’re at it? 😉 And do you advise that we choose someone local – or as an online business owner, is it okay to get an accountant located elsewhere?

    Reply
    • Sylvia

      Hey Naomi, yes with all the technology at our disposal, you can hire an accountant anywhere. No need to stay local unless you want to 🙂

      Reply
  2. Nicole

    helpful thank you

    Reply
    • Sylvia

      You’re so welcome Nicole! 🙂

      Reply

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