The right CPA can help your business reach it’s goals

Our profession has evolved vastly over the years and today we are more than just bean counters and tax preparers. A good CPA can be your company’s financial partner for life and will help you with decisions from day to day operations to strategic planning. So how do you find the right CPA for your business?

Like any other partner you choose to be by your side, you need to go through the vetting process. The first step in setting the stage for a successful search is to know what services you need and/or want. Given the level of fees you are prepared to pay, you must decide where your responsibility stops and where the accountant’s begins.

You should plan to interview three to five candidates and evaluate each potential candidate based on these criteria – services, personality and fees. You will notice that I am not mentioning professionalism and competence because that should be a given fact amongst the candidates of your choosing. The best place to start your pickings are your referral sources such as business partners in your industry, your attorney, or your banker.

Services

Most accounting firms offer tax and bookkeeping services. But what if you need payroll, management consulting, budgeting and forecasting, estate planning? Will the accountant help you design and implement financial information systems? Other services a CPA may offer is assistance for loans and financing; mergers and acquisitions related services; managing investments; and representing you before tax authorities.

Although smaller accounting firms are generally a better bet for entrepreneurs, they may not offer all these services. Do your homework and find out if the firm has what you need. In addition to services, make sure the firm has experience with your size of business and with your industry.

Personality

I am talking about long term relationship here so the personality and like mindedness does matter. Is the accountant’s style compatible with yours? Excellent organization skills, high degree of precision, focus on the client, extreme trustworthiness, creativity and collaboration are basic skills that a successful and competent CPA should possess. What about your vision? Can you see this person working side by side with you in achieving your goals?

Be sure the people you are meeting with are the same ones who will be handling your business. At many accounting firms, some partners handle sales and new business, then pass the actual account work on to others.

Fees

Ask about fees upfront. Most accounting firms charge by the hour; fees can range from $100 to $275 per hour. However, there are some accountants who work on a monthly retainer. Figure out what services you are likely to need and which option will be more cost-effective for you. Business owners should get an estimate of the total annual charges based on the services discussed, but your decision should not be solely based on cost. Remember that often you get what you pay for.