Ask SCORE: How can I find the right accountant for my business?

Your business success depends on many factors. Managing your money well and understanding your finances are two of the most critical. Unless you are an accountant by trade, it’s likely that you will need some outside guidance and insight as you start and grow your company.

Getting help from an accountant can benefit your business in a number of ways:

  • An accountant can inform you of legitimate ways to reduce your tax liability.
  • An accountant can make sure you are aware of reporting requirements and deadlines. If you’re not in compliance, you might have to pay fines.
  • An accountant can assist you in filing your taxes, saving you time and sparing you headaches.
  • An accountant can make suggestions that will help you run your business more profitably.

When you are ready to select an accountant to work with, do it the way you would with any other sort of professional service provider. Be choosy.

According to Jim Lewis, SCORE mentor and former chair of SCORE’s Fort Worth Chapter, “Your first step should be to build a short list of accountants that you would consider ‘partnering’ with, because that’s exactly what you are doing by hiring a business accountant.”

Lewis suggests your list only include accountants and accounting firms that meet the following criteria:

  • They must have experience with your type of business.
  • They live in your state and/or city so you can meet them face-to-face.
  • They come highly recommended by someone or a resource that you trust.
  • They are large enough to handle your business requirements in a timely manner, BUT not too large to get to know you and your business on a personal level.
  • They do tax work as well as weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly reporting, according to acceptable accounting practices.

“From this short list, you should set up interview meetings with each. For the interviews, you should develop a list of items you will use to judge each candidate,” explains Lewis.

“Also apply a simple grading scheme to give candidates a score of 1-3 or 1-5 for each of the criteria. Include ‘price for service’ among the judging criteria, but don’t make it the number one factor when deciding which accountant to hire. After all interviews are completed and all grading is reviewed, your top choices should be apparent.”

If you need help creating your list of potential accountants, or developing your list of judging criteria, consider asking the volunteers at Kitsap SCORE. You will find us at kitsapscore.org… “Find a Mentor.”

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