Choosing an accountant to help you with your business is an important decision that can turn into a valuable long-term partnership. Finding the right accountant is like hiring any employee or contractor, there are a number of considerations to factor into your decision to ensure you end up with and benefit from the right fit. You can hire part-time, full-time or hire an accounting firm on an as-needed basis. Here are some tips for each of these situations.
First off, you’ll want to understand what services you need and what level of financial literacy you have. Like most other professions, accountants can have a variety of expertise and specialties. Some accountants specialize in tax and may not be experts at managerial or financial accounting. You’ll want to ensure you understand what you need from the person you are hiring. If you only need a specific service, such as tax return preparation, you can look for a tax expert accountant or firm. If you need a variety of services, you might consider hiring an accounting firm that get you the right type of expert for your various issues.
Like any employee or contractor, you’ll want to ensure your accountant or accounting firm is a good fit with your organization. Ensure that you can have good conversations, that this person or firm understands your business and where it’s going and can advise you accordingly. If you need to be taken through your financials slowly and have everything clearly explained, ensure you find somebody who can talk to you at your level of financial literacy. Finance and accounting can be explained and you should insist that it be explained to you.
Consider using referrals from other small businesses or another professional to help you create a pool of candidates from which to choose. There is nothing better or more reliable than a high-praised referral from a satisfied client who has nothing to gain from the recommendation.
In Canada, the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) is the most common designated accountant. A CPA will have at minimum several years of professional experience as well as a graduate-level education in accounting, including the successful challenging of a difficult final examination to be allowed to use the title. You can feel confident that a CPA will have, at minimum, a strong level of experience and education.
You’ll also want to ensure that your accountant has the knowledge and ability to operate in your industry. If you’re having trouble finding someone with experience in your specific field, consider an accountant with previous experience in a similar industry.
The cost of your accountant will no doubt be a factor in your decision. Like all things, you should ensure you are hiring the best that you can afford at the time. Also, you should recognize that your needs will change over time, so you may have to hire additional services in the future as you grow or pivot your business.
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