accountant, paper, books
Identifying which financial services you need and understanding your budget are both key in finding the best accounting service for your business. — Getty/Jirapong Manustrong

As a small business owner, you’re likely overseeing every aspect of your business operations, including your finances. However, unless you’re a financial expert yourself, it’s wise to hire an experienced accounting firm to manage your books and taxes.

Why do small businesses have problems finding accountants?

Typically, many small business struggle to find an accounting firm because they

  1. can’t identify exactly which financial services they need,
  2. they don’t know where to find the best accountant for their needs, or
  3. they don’t have the proper budget for an accountant.

However, these issues can be combated with the right plan.

First, identify your specific financial needs and what your financial gaps are. Do you need bookkeeping or tax planning services? Do you need someone with definitive knowledge or experience in a given industry?

Next, decide which type of accounting service you’re in the market for. This can mean the decision between a local or remote accounting firm, a bookkeeper or a CPA, or a QuickBooks certified expert.

Finally, since you can expect to pay an accounting agency $500 to $3,000 every month, decide which type of accounting services fit into your business’s budget.

What do companies look for in accounting firms?

When you’re searching for an accounting firm, you first need to understand what exactly you want from them. According to Xero, you should look for the following qualities in an accounting firm:

  • Convenient location. Many companies prefer to hire a firm or individual accountant in their area, but that’s not as necessary today. With cloud accounting, you can work on your real-time data directly with your accountant from any location.
  • Certification. While bookkeeping and tax regulation don’t always require professional accountants, tasks like securing loans and auditing require certified or chartered accountants.
  • Relevant experience. Your accountant should have the expertise to help your brand, which includes understanding how to work with a business of your size, with your revenue and in your market sector.
  • Proactive about saving money. Choose an accountant who wants to help you save money, not just manage it. This requires an understanding of cash flow and being proactive in achieving a cash surplus for your business.
  • Matched software. It’s much easier to work with someone who uses the same software as you do, to ensure the process of sharing data is as seamless as possible.

Your accountant should have the expertise to help your brand, which includes understanding how to work with a business of your size, with your revenue and in your market sector.

Choosing the right accountant service

Now that you know what to look for, you can start your search for the right accountant firm or service for your company.

  • Certified public accountant (CPA). Not every accountant is a CPA. To become a CPA, accountants must pass an exam and meet certain state-specific criteria. Since CPAs are required to periodically renew their certification, they have to stay up-to-date on business accounting issues. You can find a CPA by visiting the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) website.
  • QuickBooks ProAdvisor. If you already use Intuit’s QuickBooks to manage your finances, hiring a QuickBooks ProAdvisor means you will receive the services of a bookkeeper, accountant or CPA who has passed certain exams to show they are proficient with one or more QuickBooks products. Intuit maintains a database of ProAdvisors on its Find a ProAdvisor website.
  • Accountex. Accountex is a global membership community for accounting professionals that you can use to find bookkeepers, accountants or CPAs. You can also find experts who specialize in the specific accounting software you use.

Tips to ensure the best fit for your business

Leverage your personal network. Every small business owner understands the importance of networking. Use your business contacts to your advantage when searching for accountants, and reach out to friends, family and even acquaintances for recommendations.

Don’t rush the hiring process. Don’t just choose the first “good fit” you meet. Take the time to interview multiple candidates so you can make a more practical decision.

Run background checks. Since you’re going to be entrusting this person with your business’s finances, perform a background check on your candidate to ensure reliability before hiring.

Negotiate fees. You should have a budget already in place for your accountant. If your potential accountant is requesting more, negotiate the fees to a reasonable, agreeable amount for both parties.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published March 12, 2019