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Hiring and Accountant for SME Owners – Ask the Right Questions

There comes a point in any small business when it’s time to think about hiring an accountant.  While you may have bootstrapped your business this far, keeping start-up costs down and running your business with as little expenditure at first, at some point you’re likely to reach a stage when you need help, even if you’re a sole trader.  After all, not only do you have a business to run and customers/clients to take care of, you also need to do all the administrative tasks that come with running your own business.  One of the most daunting tasks faced by most small business owners is bookkeeping and the best way to get this done properly is to hire an accountant.  Today we’re going to take a look at some questions you should ask when you consider hiring an accountant to help with your business finances.

  1. How long have you been in business? – you need to make sure that the accountant you hire has the necessary experience and expertise to benefit your business.
  2. Do you have references? – look for an accountant with experience of helping other small businesses.
  3. Who will handle my account? – a good accountancy firm will designate a specific person to handle your account so that they’re fully familiar with you and your business.
  4. How do you communicate with clients? – will all your contact with the accountant be electronic (email) or will you have regular, face-to-face meetings?
  5. What will you do to prepare my business for tax season? – your accountant should help you throughout the year to gather the documents you’ll need at tax time in order to avoid any late submissions.
  6. How do you keep up to date? – find out how your accountant keeps up to date with current trends, new ideas and developments in the industry.  A progressive, forward thinking professional is likely to be efficient and effective when it comes to taking care of your business finances.
  7. Which accounting systems or programmes do you recommend? – using software can make it much easier to manage your finances but you’ll need to make sure that any system you use is familiar to your accountant.
  8. What experience do you have providing services for others in my field? – it’s always a good idea to hire an accountant that has knowledge and experience of your industry.
  9. Do you foresee any conflicts of interest? – as we’ve pointed out, an accountant with knowledge of your specific industry is preferable – however, you don’t want to be hiring the same accounting firm that takes care of a competitor’s finances.
  10. Why should I hire you? – if your prospective accountant can’t come up with a good reason to hire them, rather than another accountant, then perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere.

Using these questions as a starting point can provide you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision when it comes to looking after your business finances.  It’s likely that you’ll be working with your accountant for many years, so spending some time and effort on choosing the right one for your business makes sense.