One of the best things you can do for your business is to have a good accountant in your corner. This person can help you stay out of trouble and be your business advisor as your business grows.
But many small business owners opt out of hiring an accountant for their business thinking they can do it all themselves. This is not the wisest course of action in the best of times and most certainly won't be the case as we move forward in the current economic landscape.
The good news is that technology provides you with plenty of options for finding and working with an accountant. But that’s the bad news too. There are so many choices; it can be tough to narrow down.
Your choice of business arrangement will be dependent on what works best for you. You may decide to go totally virtual with an accountant or stick to one that’s local who you can meet with face to face. Let’s figure it out.
This is one choice you don’t want to make by picking a name from the biggest ad in the yellow pages. So where do you start? With yourself. You can't hire an accountant until you know what you’re looking for. That means you need to take the time to think through your requirements before you make the first call.
Here are a few questions you need to answer with a simple yes or no to start figuring out what will work best for you:
Take a look at your answers and determine your needs in the following five areas. This will help you decide where to start looking for an accountant and what type of firm you’ll select.
1. Geographical Proximity: Are you comfortable with having an accountant that you may never see face to face or is that important to you?
2. Service Level: You may not need to hire a full time accountant as long as you’re willing to use your time for tax issues. Perhaps you can hire an accountant who provides minimal direction and support of the activities you complete.
3. Paper Handling: Some people just love taking all the invoices, sales and expense receipts and making sense of them. But most people don’t. You may need to seek out an accountant who can complete those details for you.
4. Business Size: There are a variety of accounting firms, from small independents to huge companies with hundreds of employees. If you often feel lost in the crowd when working with large firms, then your best choice would be a small or mid-sized company.
5. Service Fees: Typical fees for accounting services range from $75 an hour at the low end to over $300 an hour at the high end. Paying more doesn’t necessarily equate to better service or better advice. Think about your cost tolerance by checking your budget before you start interviewing.
Knowing what your requirements are will help you narrow down where you’ll begin your search so you end up with just the right person. Take the information you’ve discovered about your needs and start looking so you’ll be ready once the new year rolls around. To help you in your decision, you can download a copy of the Requirements Questions Worksheet here (pdf).
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About the Author: Denise O'Berry is a small business expert who provides tools, tips and advice to help small business owners be successful. O'Berry is the author of “Small Business Cash Flow: Strategies for Making Your Business a Financial Success.” Her blog can be found at Just for Small Business.