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We are in the age of the search engine. How many of us have become so-called experts on things thanks to Google and other search engines? With the help of the internet we can diagnose our medical issues, fix a toilet, and read about World War I all in the same day. Though we have all of this information at our fingertips, have we really become experts? Are we actually qualified to do many of the things we have been doing? Probably not.

Small Business AccountantAs a small business owner, you know about taking risks and wanting to save money. This is why it may be tempting to try and become an ‘expert’ and handle all of your business’s accounting needs yourself… with internet help, of course. However, an article for Forbes points out that, “After a few years of DIY taxes and finances, a huge percentage of those small business owners are finding that they [] don’t have time to manage these parts of their business….”

Whether you have already tried to handle your company’s financials yourself, or you are skipping that step altogether, you may be wondering how to find and what to look for in a small business accountant.

1. Experience

Like business owners, all accountants are different people with different specialties. It is important to find an accountant that deals with businesses similar to yours. For example, if you have a private medical practice— look for an accountant that has other medical practice clients. Another thing to keep in mind is the size of the clients. You want to make sure that the size of the businesses are similar to yours, but you also want keep in mind your plans and desire for growth. Will your accountant be equipped to handle your business as it grows? Check to see if they have some larger accounts as well.

2. Communication Small Business Accountant

You most likely started your business because you love what you do and what your company provides for others. You might be very familiar with accounting, tax, and economic jargon, but maybe you aren’t. It is more likely that you are very good at whatever you do for your business, and that you want an accountant that is very good at whatever he or she does. But, don’t let your accountant intimidate you with a vocabulary that you don’t understand. Remember, it is YOUR money that they are dealing with. You deserve to understand everything that is going on. Your accountant should be able take all of that terminology and translate it into something more comprehensible.

You want to find an accountant that is open with you and easy to communicate with. Ask yourself: is he or she easy to reach or do they ignore your calls? Gene Marks points out in Entrepreneur, “…every good accountant I know returns calls, replies to emails and answers texts.”  Again, your accountant is handling your money— you should be able to get ahold of them in a reasonable manner.

The last part to consider about communication is how the accountant approaches your relationship. Are they playing a simple formulaic numbers game with you? Or, are they open to your questions and are they helping to guide your unique business in a direction that will benefit it most? Find a small business accountant that is willing to work with you.

3. Budget

This is a big one. Can your small business afford an accountant? This question is entirely personal, and its answer depends on a variety of factors. What are you looking to use your accountant for? Tax preparation? Financial planning? Handling all of your books? The more you would like your accountant to do for you, the more it will cost. Some businesses can afford a full time accountant on their staff, while others will hire an accounting firm just to do their taxes. Take a serious look at your business, and what it needs. Then, speak with more than one accountant to learn about their offerings and fees. Lastly, don’t forget to negotiate.

Another option to consider is outsourcing some of your business’s accounting needs. Online accounting firms, such as Lucid Books, offer a convenient way for your business to benefit from professional help with bookkeeping without needing to pay for a full time employee.

The main thing is finding an accounting solution that will be an asset to your business, not a hindrance. An accountant should help to improve your company’s financials and not be a financial drain.

4. Skills/Qualifications

As I mentioned earlier, your small business accountant is handling YOUR money. You want them to be qualified and know what they are doing. Think about what you are asking your accountant to do and that will lead you to know what qualifications they should have. When it comes to accountants, you can have CPAs, CIAs, financial advisors, management accountants, etc…. It is important to be aware of what accounting qualifications will best suit your business’s needs.

For example, you’ve probably heard the acronym, CPA. This stands for Certified Public Accountant. According to Capella University, “A CPA is a certified public accountant who has met specific state and education licensing requirements and passed the CPA exam….” You may not have known that in order to be an accountant, you do not necessarily have to be a CPA. Both a regular accountant and a CPA can prepare a tax return, but CPAs can also be fiduciaries of their clients and represent them in front of the IRS, if need be. If you will be looking for help with your taxes, you most likely want to find a CPA.

CIAs or Certified Internal Auditors work within your company to audit past financials, while financial advisors can help you make future accounting decisions. To find the right person for you and your business, look past the title ‘accountant’ to find out more about what person does, what their education is, and what they specialize in.

Small Business Accountant

5. Reviews/References

Most people won’t even go get a haircut without reading an online review or talking to a friend about the salon, so why would you choose an accountant without putting that same amount, if not more, of time and effort into your search? Talk to fellow business owners, read reviews, and use social media to help you find someone you can trust. Don’t be afraid to double check references and make sure that you are getting someone qualified and reliable.

For most small businesses, hiring an accountant is the right choice. Having a reliable accountant on your side can help with financial planning, investments, bookkeeping, and making sure you are doing everything you need to do when it comes to employment and taxes. This leaves you free to focus on other areas of your business. Choosing the right small business accountant can be tricky, but it’s a task worth spending time on.

If you would like to learn more about various outsourced accounting solutions, contact Lucid Books!