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How to find the perfect accountant for your business in 4 simple steps

Managing your company’s books and finances is a crucial task that comes with a lot of pressure. Make one wrong turn and you could wind up dealing with tax issues, facing penalties, and losing money—yikes. To avoid accounting mistakes and ensure your company’s books are as accurate as possible, you might consider finding an accountant.

To find the perfect accountant for your business, you have to know where to start and what steps to follow. But, no worries—I’m here to help guide you through the process. 

Before You Start Your Search…

Finding an accountant for your business is a big step—especially if it’s your first time searching for and working with one. But before you begin your hunt for the perfect accountant, ask yourself a couple of big (and important) questions and determine what services you need. 

Ask Yourself If You Need An Accountant

Woah, there. Before you start going down the rabbit hole of searching for an accountant, you need to ask yourself, Do I need an accountant? The short answer is yes. Here’s why...

An accountant can:

  • Ensure that your books are accurate
  • Help you with your business budget
  • Make tax time a breeze for your business
  • Steer you in the right direction when it comes to business decisions
  • Give you advice
  • Be your go-to person for accounting questions

Your accountant can make sure your books are up-to-date and accurate for your business. Although it’s important to use accounting software for day-to-day transactions, you should always have an accountant look over your books. 

Determine What Services You Need

Determined that it’s time for your business to find an accountant? Great! Now you must decide what services you need (and which ones you want, but aren’t 100% necessary). 

Here are some things an accountant can do for you:

  • Analyze your finances 
  • Prepare tax returns
  • Manage your books
  • Prepare financial statements
  • Help you with payroll tasks (e.g., filing payroll taxes)
  • Ensure your business is following the latest regulations
  • Assist you with year-end tasks (e.g., filing IRS Form W-2 and W-3)

Once you determine your wants and needs in an accountant, you can begin following the...

4 Steps For Finding An Accountant

Ready to start your hunt for the picture-perfect accountant for your business? Get started by following the four steps below. 

1. Ask Others for Referrals

Looking for an accountant you can trust? Ask around for some referrals. After all, there’s nothing like getting a recommendation from people you know and trust. 

Gather referrals from fellow business professionals, friends, and family to help you scope out the perfect accountant. You can also reach out to your banker or small business lawyer to get some recommendations. Don’t be afraid to tap into your industry’s network. 

After gathering referrals, weigh your options and do some digging (aka check out some online reviews). If you don’t get any worthy referrals, want to keep your options open, or don’t have anyone to ask for referrals, you can always do some of your own research. Which leads us to Step #2...

2. Do Your Own Research

Like in any situation, it never hurts to do a little extra research when looking for an accountant. In addition to asking around for referrals, you can:

  • Do an online search
  • Look at reviews
  • Use a business/telephone directory 

When looking online, it’s a good rule of thumb to look at both good and bad reviews. That way, you can see a variety of different experiences. In today’s day and age, you can also expand your online search to out-of-state accountants that offer virtual services.  

If you find a few accountants in a paper directory, consider doing a quick online search of the firm to see what others have to say about them. 

3. Interview Each Prospective Accountant

After you do a little bit of homework, narrow down your prospective picks and begin reaching out to set up some time to talk. Then, interview your list of potential accountants to see who’s the best fit for your business.

Like with any type of interview, you’ll want to prepare ahead of time. And yes, this means coming up with a list of questions to ask. To help you get started, consider asking some of these questions:

  • What services do you provide?
  • What do you charge your clients?
  • Are there any additional charges for certain services?
  • How do you communicate with clients? (e.g., phone calls)
  • What kinds of clients do you work with?
  • Which accounting programs do you use?
  • What kind of accounting experience do you have?

When it comes to finding the ideal accountant, the more questions you ask, the better. Watch out for red flags like overpromising (e.g., “I can get you a big tax refund for sure”), lack of credentials, and embellishing.  

Don’t be afraid to shop around and consider other options before you make a decision. 

4. Make A Decision

Last but certainly not least, it’s time to make a decision (cue the confetti cannon). 

Before you decide on an accountant, weigh the pros and cons of each firm. And, be sure to ask yourself if you’re compatible as business partners. 

Once you make a decision, reach back out to the accountant you select to get the ball rolling. Of course, you’ll want to meet with your accountant regularly. When you do, make a list of questions to ask your accountant.

First Midwest Bank is here to help with your Small Business Banking needs. Let's talk. 

This article was written by Mike Kappel from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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