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Choose the Right Accountant

By: Helena Stratford - Updated: 19 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Accountant Running A Business Expenses

Although it is important to understand the costs of running a business and to keep a careful track of your expenses as you go along, in the long run, or for end of year accounts, hiring an accountant can help you save money and give you confidence that your financial legalities are being looked after by a professional.

By using an accountant your business will gain from their specialist knowledge to help make savings and perhaps pay less tax. If you choose the right one, they will work alongside you to help grow the business and manage your accounting for you but choosing the wrong one can be extremely costly, both to your business and to your wallet!

So how do you choose the right accountant?

Where to Find an Accountant

Well the first thing to do is to get some names and numbers and start gathering quotes. Accountants will advertise in the Yellow Pages or Business sector of the telephone book or you can look on the Internet for online advertisements.

However, by far the best way of getting contacts, is by recommendation - so ask around. Begin with friends and family and ask them to ask their acquaintances and so on. You will be surprised by how quickly you have some numbers to call and reasons to call them.

When first making contact with an accountancy firm, try to gauge how they treat your new inquiry. Do they seem approachable and interested in the possibility of new business? Do they answer the questions you have carefully and patiently? Do they offer a free consultation or home visit to discuss your situation more fully?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then proceed to the next stage but if not, then forget them and move on as their attitude to you from the outset may well reflect their attitude to your business.

Make a Shortlist

Once you have made your initial calls, make a short list and take up any offers of free consultations or introductory meetings, as it is important to get a feel for whom you might be dealing. At your meeting you need to have your business model with you as well as any plans you have for the future, and an idea of what you want to get out of the meeting.

Questions that you should consider asking are:

  • How big is their firm? Some large firms have a variety of accountants who could be working on your business and you need to decide if you mind this or would prefer a one-to-one relationship.
  • Do they specialise in Small Business (SME’s) or start-up businesses?
  • How established is their firm? How long have they been in the business – enough to build a good reputation?
  • Do they have any knowledge or prior experience in your business sector?
  • What are their costs and what do these costs cover?
  • Can they offer any additional services?
  • Are they happy to provide references of other satisfied clients?
  • Are they local?

The last question is important because it is much easier to deal with an accountant who is local and accessible when you need to see them. It also means that they are more likely to know and understand the local marketplace.

Arrange a Consultation

At your meeting, try to get a sense of whether the accountant is enthusiastic about your business and is already beginning to suggest a way forward. Do they ask you questions? Do they seem to want you to succeed? Also ask if they are the accountant that will be dealing with you.

If not, then request to see them. It is important that you are able to feel comfortable and are put at your ease. After all, you will be divulging very sensitive data to them and will be discussing the nature of your personal finances and success – or otherwise – of your livelihood.

Be confident that you can ask questions without appearing stupid and will be given clear instructions of what they will require from their part of the relationship.

Make a Selection

Once you have made your selection, the accountant will send you a Letter of Engagement which will set out their terms of business and which will act as a contract between you.

If you accept, you can look forward to a long and profitable relationship!

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