Finding the Right Accountant for Your Small Business

It is essential that your business has an actual accounting system set up, rather than a filing cabinet or box full of receipts.  A good accountant can help you set up a budget and keep track of important numbers for your business, including transactions, accounts receivable, daily operations expenses, and employee wages.  Keeping track of such data will also be useful if your business is audited by the IRS, a possibility that is higher than ever before (  Additionally, an accountant can provide much-needed security for your data–the same can’t be said for that box of papers sitting on top of your bookshelf.

You may already be convinced that you need the assistance of a professional accountant, but you are unsure of how to go about finding the right one for your business.  The process is not as difficult or overwhelming as you may believe.  Give yourself at least 1-2 weeks to follow this step–by-step guide.

The first step is to speak with people you trust to get referrals for local accountants.  The best people to get suggestions from include your financial planner and/or banker, as well as other business owners you know or can contact through your local chamber of commerce.  Start your list with at least three accountants, but try to keep the number reasonable since you will be contacting each firm directly.

Once you’ve composed your initial list, contact each firm via phone or email and ask for more information about company experience, specialties, educational background, and fees.  You want to be sure that your accountant will be a good fit for your business and that your childcare business won’t end up with a firm that specializes in real estate.

Your initial discussion should have helped you narrow down your list.  Next, you will want to create a final list of three or four candidates.  Consider how each firm responded to your request for information.  You will want to work with an accountant that is prompt, polite, and knowledgeable, but also within your budget.  The next step is to set up individual meetings with each candidate from your final list.

Your personal interview with each firm is the time to ask questions that are important to you and your business.  Find out exactly who will be working on your accounts as well as who will have access to your information.  Also, you should consider asking about the firm’s availability–will someone be available to answer a quick question you have on a Tuesday afternoon or will you have weekly meetings?  Be sure to take notes for comparisons with your other candidates.

After the personal interviews, go over your notes and consider each candidate’s answers to your questions.  It is also important to consider the approachability and professionalism of the person or persons you spoke with–you want to work with an accountant that makes you feel comfortable.  Remember that your accountant should be able to assist you year-round, not just during tax season.  You want to choose a firm that can help you successfully grow your business.

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