Is it time to consider switching accountants? (It’s easier than you think!)

The 5 KEYS to Selecting the Right Accountant to Ensure Success for Your Business

The right accountant doesn’t just file your taxes. The right accountant can save you money and help you expand your business. Finding an accountant that can also serve as a trusted financial advisor can mean increased revenues, better cash flow and greater success for you and your business. The wrong accountant can be costly. Mistakes in tax filings, lack of tax planning and inability to offer sound business advice can cost your business both time and money.

Welcome to Week 3 in our 5 week series highlighting the keys to consider when you are looking to select an accountant, and how to use your accountant effectively in your business.

So far, we have covered KEY #1 – TRUSTED ADVISOR and KEY #2 – VALUABLE CONNECTIONS.

This week we are focusing on how accessible your accountant is or should be.

KEY #3 – OPEN AVAILABILITY – Don’t allow poor time management or a lack of resources to let your questions go unanswered, a good accountant has time for each client throughout the entire year.

An accountant must be able to manage their schedule in order to be available to you not only during the critical planning times of the year that are from summer to fall, but also during their busy tax preparation season. Look for an accountant that is willing to commit the time to meet your needs when they arise. Be sure to understand just how available an accountant will be with their time, and whether or not they have the staff and resources to adequately support you.

When choosing an accountant, it is best to start with a face to face interview. You are going to be establishing a long term relationship, so feeling comfortable is important. In the interview, you will want to ask about communication and fee structures. Is there are fixed cost for reasonable questions/answer communication, or is it hourly? Because you want your costs to be as controlled as possible, finding out the fee structure ahead of time keeps you from having any surprises when the bill comes.

You also want to discuss the best way to communicate with your new accountant. Ask them how long it takes to respond to phone calls, emails, letters, etc. You can also ask if there is a preferred way to reach them in case of an emergency (and if there is an additional cost for emergency calls). Consider your immediate timeframe for accounting needs in the interview. If you are in the middle of the audit or under a tax deadline, you will likely need more access to your accountant in the immediate short term. However, if you are just starting a business and are not under deadline, then you can discuss how often to engage or communicate with your accountant.

Do you prefer to meet face to face? Will those meetings be held in your office or the accountant’s office? Although it may be convenient for you to conduct meetings in your office or an outside location, the billable time for your accountant may go up, so be sure to take this into consideration.

No matter how you choose to communicate with your accountant, you should feel comfortable and secure asking questions and expecting clear and jargon free answers. Timely turn around on questions and projects will build trust between you and your accountant and allow you to work as a team to grow your business.

Finally, you will want to check to see if your accountant has ways for your to get answers to basic questions or be able to perform basic tasks in ways that will save you time and money. Do they have online solutions for you to access so that you don’t have to engage them and can do so when it is convenient for you?

Check back next week when we cover our next key:

KEY #4 – TECH SAVVY. Don’t get stuck in the old way of doing things, free up time and resources by choosing an accountant that maximizes available technologies to meet your business needs.