Once you have a short list, schedule a free initial consultation to help determine whether your candidates are the right fit for your needs: Some questions to ask include:
What is your experience with small businesses? Small businesses have dynamic and sometimes complex accounting needs and few resources to manage them. An accountant who understands these dynamics and has a solid small business client base will likely serve your needs better in the long run. You will also want to know that your accountant has experience with businesses that are structured like yours – whether you are a sole proprietor, LLC, partnership, or corporation.
What experience do you have with my industry? Ideally, your accountant should have knowledge of your industry. Many accountants specialize in certain industries such as franchising, real estate, construction or exporting. Again, get referrals from others in your industry.
Do you do more than tax preparation? If you need help with tax filing, then a tax preparer is the way to go. But if you want long-term strategic advice to help you manage your small business finances, be sure to ask about the range of value-add services, such as business valuation, budgeting and forecasting, bookkeeping, risk assessment, and small business startup advice.
Who will I be working with? If your accountant is to become a trusted advisor, then you want to know from the outset who exactly you will be working with. A smaller firm, where a partner or owner handles the bulk of the work, is often a better choice for small businesses looking for a long-term advisory relationship. The alternative is a larger firm, where you are handed off to a junior accountant after the initial handshake. Other things to consider as you compare your candidates are:
Flexibility and responsiveness – are they willing to visit your business premises for quarterly reviews? How quickly will they respond to queries or requests?
Fees and charges
Value-add services that you may want in the future, such as audit support or CFO services.
Professional qualifications, licenses (CPAs are distinguished from other accounting practitioners by strict licensing regulations), and references