How to Choose a Small Business Accountant
As a small business owner, you may be wondering how to choose an accountant to look after your business accounts. Finding the right accountant is an important step because you will want to be sure that not only will they have your best interests at heart, but that they will also not overcharge you or bill you for hidden extra services that you may not actually need.
Making the right choice for your accountant can be one of the most important decisions you ever make for your business. A good accountant is one that can save you time and money, which of course will help your business to grow. Make the wrong choice and you could end up paying out for expensive services and wasting money that could be better invested elsewhere in your business.
With so many accounting firms to choose from, making the right decision can be a daunting one. To make it easier for you, The Cheap Accountant is here for your! Lets take a look at some of the questions to ask when looking at an accountancy firm to make sure you are choosing the right one.
The importance of hiring the right accountant
Many small business owners are unaware that hiring the right accountant for their company is more important than taking on a new member of staff. You would never make a quick judgement and hire the first person that walks through your door at a job interview, so why would you hire the first accounting firm you find on a web search or when looking through a local business directory.
In both cases, choosing the wrong person for the job can have a major negative impact on your business. The whole process of hiring staff and hiring an accountant can be very time consuming and costly, especially if you make the wrong choice.
Adding value to your business
The main reason for hiring an accountant for your small business is to find a firm that will add value to your company. This could be through the time-saving tasks that they can perform for you that allow you to focus your own time on developing your business or gaining new clients. It could be on their ability to save you money through knowing exactly what business expenses and allowances you can claim. It may well be a combination of the two!
When choosing an accountant, you shouldn’t look upon them as just another employee, but more as a business partner that is there to support you and to use their expert knowledge to help the business grow and move forward.
This is why you need to take your time to thoroughly research your needs and requirements before looking for a suitable accountancy firm that will fit with your requirements. It can be a difficult chore to approach an accountant for help when you are not even sure of what help you actually need from them. This can often lead you to accepting a package of help that includes extra services that you may not actually benefit from, but will still be paying out for because they are included in your deal.
Questions to ask an accountant
Obviously, the first thing you look at when you are considering an accountancy firm is whether they are qualified. Take a look at their list of accountants and check their qualifications. Make sure that they are regulated by a professional body. Look for ICAWE, ACA & ACCA membership for example. Also check to see if they have any professional indemnity insurance – this means that you are covered for any losses to your business where bad advice may be given.
Once you have established that the accountancy firm has met with the above assurances, you should then ask them directly to share their customer testimonials with you. What would be even better is if they could give you a reference from one of their current ongoing clients that would be happy for you to talk to them.
Getting second opinions from their satisfied clients can help you to establish whether there reputation is as good as it is claimed to be. You could also ask around your peers from within your own sector to see if anyone else has used their services and can recommend them.
You will want to meet with your prospective accountant before hiring them, so it always pays to be prepared. Never go into your first meeting with them completely cold without any questions to ask. If you do this then you will simply be hit with their own PR sales pitch and you can come away with only what the company is prepared to dazzle you with.
How can your accountancy firm save me money?
This is one of the most important questions any small business owner is going to ask of a prospective accountant. How can you save my business money, and how could you make my money work harder?
We all know that most small businesses are having to run within very tight budget constraints. A good accountant isn’t just there to look after the books and file company accounts and tax returns each year. A good accountancy firm should be doing more than this for you.
A good accountant can help you to grow your business thorough searching out suitable funding grants, applying for Government schemes with incentives, as well as tax relief schemes. Should you be looking to sell company shares, your accountant can help you with this as well as seeking out other investment opportunities such as angel investments and even setting up crowdfunding events. It is all about having someone in place that can effectively balance your books, but can also help ensure that you are claiming everything that you are entitled to that can save you money and attract new investment.
This is also why a small business owner must carefully weigh up the costs of hiring an accountant against the benefits that they can bring to your company. Company accounts are a necessary task that need to be done for the sake of compliance, but because most small businesses are very cost conscious, they may often question why they need to pay an accountant to do a job that the company owner may be able to do by themselves.
Balancing the books
In the early start-up stages of a new small business, your company accounts may be a small enough task for you to complete by yourself. However, as your company grows and your daily tasks increase, it can pay to hire the services of an accountant to take over these time consuming, non-productive tasks for you, thus freeing up your precious time to focus elsewhere where it can be used more productively.
For a good while you may find that you are stuck in a sort of ‘in-between’ place where your company accounts are starting to become a troublesome burden on your time, but you still don’t see any justification in spending money on hiring an accountant.
In cases like this, the obvious solution would be to look at online bookkeeping software such as QuickBooks, Clear Books and Xero. These can be a very good solution to managing your bookkeeping and accounts and keeping tabs on income and outgoings etc. However, although these systems are great for freeing up your time from necessary but unproductive daily paperwork, they really cannot help you in the ways that real-life accountant can.
Finding the right accountant
The right accountant for your small business will be able to understand your small business needs and be able to offer you the most relevant insights for moving your business forward. An experienced accountancy that specialise in looking after small businesses understands that many small business owners can be quite naïve about their accounting requirements. In fact according to research conducted by Xperian, 59% of new start-up directors are running a company for the first time, which means they have no experience in knowing what services to ask an accountant for.
In cases like these, it is important for a new business owner to choose an accountancy firm with experience of working with small businesses. They would have a wealth of knowledge and experience that could be really beneficial to the new business owner, and because they understand what challenges you are having to face, they are best placed to help you navigate your way through your set up and early years to get better established and working efficiently.
Differing levels of engagement
A good accountancy firm will be able to offer a small business owner differing levels of engagement according to their needs. With a lot of accountants offering all-in-one packages that are costly and inflexible in design, many small business owners feel that they have no choice but to accept what they are offered.
This is not the case with small business accountants such as The Cheap Accountant. We understand that budgets are tight when you are first starting out so offering the choice to correspond via telephone or email rather than in person can help to greatly cut down on costs and the levels of contact needed to keep cost to a minimum. Our flexible services can increase in line with your business growth, so as your needs increase, so can our services to you.
There is no need to worry that taking up a low-cost accountancy service will mean having a second class service. Because you will be assigned a dedicated account manager who will be dealing directly with you on all matters, you will never be passed around or placed with an office junior. The accountant that you are assigned to will be chosen because they are the best person to handle your specific needs. Your personal accountant will possess the best knowledge to suit your particular needs. We know that at larger firms, this just doesn’t happen.
The Cheap Accountant aims to nurture a healthy business relationship with you through regular contact and information sharing. We want to build up trust with you so that we can work closely together in partnership to get the best possible outcome for your business.