December 5, 2018 Accounting en_US A Guide to Finding the Right Accountant

A Guide to Finding the Right Accountant

By Ken Boyd December 5, 2018

Getting some outside help from an accountant can help you reduce costs, operate more efficiently, and increase company profits.

But how do you find an expert who knows your industry, and charges a reasonable price?

Use this guide to find the right accountant for your firm, and to build confidence that your business is on the right track.

Bookkeepers vs. CPAs: Which Do You Need?

You’ve started using QuickBooks, and you’ve developed some level of comfort with the software. You may have decided to bring in experts to help your business grow. Before you start your accountant search, be sure to consider what you really need and the costs involved by knowing how the role of a bookkeeper, accountant, and CPA differ.

A bookkeeper can post transactions into your QuickBooks and reconcile your accounts. As your business grows, hiring someone to record day-to-day financial transactions and make sure your books are accurate can save you time.

Accountants, on the other hand, can be valuable advisors to fuel business growth. They can interpret your financial statements in QuickBooks, project performance, and help plan for future investments.

Finally, you may need the help of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), who can provide the highest level of accounting service. CPAs understand the current accounting standards required to generate accurate financial statements, and some CPAs work as tax specialists to provide high-level tax advice.

Once you understand these roles, think about the type of help you need. If someone on your staff is performing the bookkeeping tasks, you only need the services of an accountant.

Industry Knowledge

To get the most out of your accounting relationship, find an expert who has experience in your industry. The accounting issues that business owners face can vary widely, depending on the industry.

If you operate an online business, for example, you need an accountant who understands the sales taxes you may have to collect for online sales. Conversely, a manufacturing business needs an expert who knows how to account for the cost of material used to make a product.

When you interview accountants, ask about their experience in your industry.

Services Offered

Your business may expand over time, so it’s important to find an accounting firm that can provide the services you need if you decide to grow.

For example, if you plan on keeping your business as a one-person operation, you don’t need an accountant who can manage payroll for a large staff of people. Other business owners want to build a staff, and potentially bring in additional investors. If that’s where you’re headed, you’ll need an accounting firm that can handle more complex issues.

Finding the Right Candidate

To find accountants who can meet your needs, ask friends and business associates for referrals. A good accountant is valuable to a business owner, and people may be happy to refer you to someone they’re found. When you interview candidates, ask them about these topics:

  • References: Ask for the names of some existing clients who you can contact. Feedback from existing customers is a great way to learn about an accountant. Call the references and ask them about their level of satisfaction.
  • Credentials: If the accountant is a CPA, contact the State Board of Accountancy in your state, and verify that the accountant’s CPA license is current.
  • Availability: Response time is a big issue for accountants, particularly during the 1st quarter of the year when accountants perform financial audits and prepare tax returns. Tell each accountant about the work you need completed, and if they can fit that into their schedule. Also, ask them if you can contact other people in the office if your accountant isn’t available.
  • Hourly rate: Finally, ask the accountant how much they charge per hour. If you need ongoing work, such as a month-end review of your QuickBooks transactions, an accountant may charge you a flat fee, based on an estimate of the work required each month.

Ask these questions when you speak with each accountant. If you need help getting started, you can also search QuickBooks’ directory of accounting professionals.

Once you’ve finished your interviews, discuss the conversations with someone you trust. Getting feedback from a trusted friend or work colleague can help you make an informed decision.

Take Action

Use these tips to find the right accountant who can meet your business needs at a reasonable price. The sooner you find the right person, the more benefit you’ll get out of the relationship.

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Ken Boyd is a co-founder of and owns St. Louis Test Preparation ( He provides blogs, videos, and speaking services on accounting and finance. Ken is the author of four Dummies books, including "Cost Accounting for Dummies." Read more