Why You Should Hire a Small Business Accountant Today

Who you select can be an invaluable business asset for life.
CPA Piggy Bank
Make sure the accountant that you hire is a certified CPA, which means they passed a state exam as well as complete continuing education courses. (Photo: Melpomene/Shutterstock)

It’s a question every small business owner must answer: Do I need an accountant?

The answer is a resounding, “Yes,” according to Adam Spiegel, CPA and principal at MBAF, Certified Public Accountants and Advisors.

“Small business owners should consider an accountant an important part of their team, just like their banker, attorney or even their customers,” he said.

He recommended small business owners not wait until tax time to hire an accountant.

“To get the most value out of your relationship with your accountant, don’t wait to hire them right before the deadline. Bring them on board at the beginning of the calendar year, so they can advise on the best strategy for maximizing your business’ finances with enough time for you to implement their advice,” Spiegel said.

When looking for the best accountant for your company, ask other professionals with whom you work, like your banker or attorney. Another good source is local industry associations, chambers of commerce or the Better Business Bureau.

“Once you’ve made your shortlist of those you’d like to speak with, schedule at least two meetings with each candidate before making a decision,” Spiegel said.

For small business owners, in addition to an accountant’s professional reputation, Spiegel said the choice usually comes down to the candidate’s personality and availability to answer questions and provide timely service.

“Multiple meetings will allow you to get a better sense of what the person is like on a regular basis and not just during a new business pitch,” Spiegel said.

Since, according to industry data, you are likely to work with your accountant for 11 to 12 years, Spiegel said it is important that you do plenty of research to ensure you’ve hired the right person for the job.

He recommended you ask the following questions of any prospective accountant:

Are you a certified public accountant (CPA)?

Spiegel said to remember that anyone doing accounting work, whether it’s a bookkeeper at an office or a staff member at an accounting firm, is considered an accountant. However, a CPA has to pass a state exam, complete continuing education courses regularly and abide by a set of rules and code of ethics to keep their certification. Also, if he or she is a CPA, you can confirm their licenses are active and in good standing with an online search.

Do you have a CPA on staff that is reviewing my materials?

This can be an option if the person you’re speaking with works for a firm but isn’t a CPA. “Having this additional level of review is crucial,” Spiegel said.

What type of industry experience do you have?

Choose an accountant who has experience working with your type of business. There are accountants who specialize in every industry, so make sure you select one who has relevant experience for what you need.

Do you have the ability to provide the services I need in a timely manner?

“Always ensure that your deadlines and your accountant’s deadlines line up to avoid issues,” Spiegel said.

Do you have client references I can call?

A reputable accountant should always be able to provide references for you to check. Spiegel said, “You should also ask if they survey their clients at any point during the year and what is the feedback they have received.”

What are your fees?

You may also want to ask if they have a standard quota of hours they need to meet in order to bring you on as a client.

“Remember that you always get what you pay for, and if you want an accountant that is going to ask the hard questions and make the hard recommendations that will help you grow your business, you need to pay for someone at that level,” Spiegel said.

“At the same time, as a small business owner you want someone that is going to do the job as efficiently as possible to spend the least amount of your money.”

An accountant can bring a great deal to your business, such as strategic planning for long-­range goals. Additionally, an accountant can help with family planning, including transferring wealth, responsibility or even the entire business from one family member to another.

“A good accountant pulls from their own personal business experiences to make the best recommendations to grow your business,” Spiegel said.

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