A very common question. For many small business and startup owners, finding the most suited accountant for them can be difficult. But if you approach the situation systematically and ask the right questions, you can make the process a lot smoother.
To help you find the best fit accountant for your business, here are our top ten questions you should ask yourself before hiring an accountant.
- Can the accountant provide any references?
- Does the accountant have experience with your size and sector?
- What qualifications does the accountant hold?
- How often can you meet your would-be new accountant?
- What technology and accountancy software does the accountant use?
- How much does the accountant charge?
- What other services might the accountant be able to provide?
- Is the accountant genuinely interested in your growth?
- How do they keep up to date with changes and communicate them to you?
- What makes this accountant different from everyone else?
1. Can the accountant provide any references?
An accountant that isn’t willing to (or can't) supply references is one that you probably want to avoid. Speak to existing and past clients to get a better understanding of how your potential business accountant may treat you. We suggest you try and speak to at least three references made up of companies that are of a similar size to your own and at least one that is the size you aim to be in a year or two. It's also a good idea to do some of your own searching to see if anyone is leaving reviews on the web.
At HL&W we are more than happy to supply as many references as you need. Alternatively, you can take a look at our Google reviews to see what some of our clients have to say about us.
2. Does the accountant have experience with your size and sector?
Ask about the experience that the accountant has with similar types of businesses to yours, especially if you did not speak to any as part of your reference check. Not all business types are handled the same from an accounting point of view. For example, if you’re an IT contractor but the accounting firm only has a small amount of experience with contractors in general, they may not have enough experience to take your business to the next level.
A lot of accountancy firms, including us, specialise in a certain area. We're all about contractors, small business and start ups. It means all of our attention and knowledge growth is focused on helping these groups of companies succeed.
3. What Qualifications does the accountant hold?
Be sure to ask what qualifications your prospective accountant has during early conversations, it’s important to make sure that the person handling the financial side of your business is fully qualified. When you ask this question, there shouldn’t be any hesitations within the answer of someone that is genuinely qualified to do work on your behalf.
Cheryl Woolhouse of HL&W has been qualified as an accountant since 2009 and is a Member of the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) which is one of the UK’s leading body’s offering a recognised accounting qualification.
4. How often can you meet your would-be new accountant?
Being able to meet with your accountant face to face regularly helps to build a strong relationship and ensures you are both on the same page. If you want an accountant that is going to help you grow, they must understand and be part of your business activities.
AT HL&W we took the decision to only work with local businesses in the Hampshire area to ensure we can offer the right amount of face-to-face time. It may limit our total client base but we think our level service and passion to help small businesses is more important.
5. What technology and accountancy software does the accountant use?
With the ongoing advancements of technology, tax going digital, and cloud-based accounting software becoming almost essential, make sure your accountant is not living in the dark ages. Although there is nothing wrong with an abacus, cloud-based accounting software gives you (and us) the ability to access your financial data in real-time.
As gold edition partners with Sage One, we use online, cloud-based accounting systems to make accounting easier for you. Here are some benefits that come with the Sage One software we use.
- Work from any device anywhere
- Quick and easy professional invoicing
- Reports and insights
- Bank connectivity
- Track what you’re owed
6. How much does the accountant charge?
To avoid any disputes further down the line, you should discuss the fee structure the accountant works to. Do they charge hourly? is there a fixed fee? A combination of the two? It's important to take note and make sure you fully understand how the billing will work.
At HL&W we offer fixed pricing. Whether you’re a contractor, small business or startup, it will allow you to budget accordingly and not have to worry about any surprise bills. It is important to say though, don't be put off by costs right away. The questions we're asking from this point will certainly play an impact and paying a bit more may help your business grow.
7. What services does the accountant provide?
Most accountants will provide a range of services, from HMRC correspondence to assisting with bookkeeping, so ensure you are aware of every single service they will be able to help you with. If you are in a niche sector and require a Research and Development specialist for example, you need to decide whether you want an all-in service from your accountant or use a number of parties to fulfil all your needs.
We offer a wide range of services that are tailored to fit the needs of small business, you can take a look at what we offer on our services page.
8. Is the accountant genuinely interested in your growth?
If you are looking to grow your business, you should be looking for an accountant that is just as passionate about your business succeeding as you. Get an understanding whether they really get you and the direction that your company should be heading in. Can they identify their role in helping you achieve your objectives?
At HL&W we want your business to succeed. We help your company grow by helping you create data driven goals, progress based on figures, and financial strategies based upon your cash flow. Understanding your business is key to our success.
9. How do they keep up to date with changes and communicate them to you?
When it comes to tax for business owners, the rules and regulations are constantly shifting. In the last few years, the rules regarding dividends have changed significantly, you can discover more on this topic in a previous blog about the Optimum Salary and Dividends for small businesses in 2018/2019. It’s crucial that your possible accountant is keeping up-to-date with changes in the financial world so that they can help make sure your business is up to date with it as well – helping you stay clear of those unexpected fines.
10. What makes this accountant different from everyone else?
After asking all the other questions you should get a good idea of how each accountant would fit into your world but we think it's always a good question to ask if you are struggling to make your mind up. How well can the accountant differentiate themselves from the vast amount of competition accountants generally face. Their answer may just help you decide.
Interested to see how we’d answer?
We love meeting new faces and would be more than happy to answer any questions and let you know exactly how we could help your business grow.