At Float, we work with some of the best accountants in the world. But not every accountant is right for every business. And it can be hard to know where to start when figuring out how to choose an accountant.
And choosing an accountant is like hiring a new employee. You’re looking for the right level of experience, for the right price. Beyond that, you also want someone who would fit in well, and that you’d enjoy working with.
But there are a few key things that you should be looking out for when it comes to deciding how to choose a new accountant.
Website and technology
Things move fast, and the internet stops for no accountant. So assume that most websites will be out of date. That being said, a website can give you some clues as to how the firm operates and what they might be like to work with.
The key thing I look for on an accountant’s website is proof that they’re making the most of the technology at the core of their offering. Good tech isn’t a “nice to have right now,” it’s the foundation of your business.
Firms that don’t have a tech focus will struggle to keep up, and this is often (but not always) represented on the website. Larger firms may have a Head of Cloud Accounting, but for smaller firms, it can be hard to see how tech-inclined they are without actual evidence on their website. Look for the badges, awards, testimonials, and social proof that technology is front and centre.
Some firms recognise that they don’t have a tech focus in house, and will work with Cloud Integrators to help put specialist solutions in place. This is a good sign too.
Is remote an option?
As remote working becomes more and more common, it’s no surprise that businesses are working with accountants and advisors that aren’t physically located in the same town or city.
You might find a firm hundreds of miles away that’s a better fit for you. If you’ve got a decent broadband connection – you can use tools like Zoom or Skype – and will probably find this is a more efficient way of working with your accountant. It’s great if you find services locally, but it’s not worth limiting your search if you’re not finding the right fit.
What clients do they have?
Some accountancy firms specialise in certain sectors, whilst others will work more broadly with different clients. Personally, I like to see some sector-specific knowledge. But it might not trump some of the other considerations for you.
Two good examples of firms that specialise in a business sector are MAP and The WOW Company. Both firms work mostly with creative agencies. So if you’re running a creative agency, then you’ll not only get tech-savvy accountants on your side, but you’ll be able to use their experience with their other clients to your advantage.
Do they offer advisory services?
End of year reporting and tax planning are two examples of ‘compliance services’. Compliance work is great, but finding an advisor who is keen to work with you beyond this, and help you consider how your business is going to grow, is something I’d look for.
A lot of websites will list services, but really what you’re looking for is insight. “How have you helped other businesses like mine in the past?”. If the answer is “we’ve done the taxes”, you might want to keep looking.
Another option is to bring in a Virtual CFO, who can give you what you need “beyond the numbers”. It means that you don’t have to change accountants entirely, and you still get the benefits of a new, tech-savvy advisor.
How do they charge their services?
There is so much that could be said here, but when you’re at this stage, it’s good to get a quote for the services they believe you need. Some firms will put their prices on their website, whilst others will do a discovery call and help build a list of services from the menu.
I don’t think you should be told to pick an option. Instead, ask the accountant to suggest the plan that they think you need right now, based on what they know of your business. If you think you could cut it back, or it seems expensive, ask them where they would cut it down if they had to.
One question you have to ask is: “will there be any unexpected costs, beyond this price?”. Some accountants stick firmly to their monthly price. Others will send bills for things that they deem outside ‘business as usual’. If that’s the case, make sure they agree to always be clear, and agree to this extra up front, rather than sending a bill after the fact. We’ve seen this too many times, and it can really hurt your cash flow!
Proactive or reactive?
For me, this is one of the biggest shifts coming to the accountancy industry. There is no hard and fast rule on how often you should hear from your accountant. But, hopefully, with your accountant providing more than just compliance services for you and your business, you should hear from them far more than just before they produce your year-end reports.
Why not ask how often you should expect to hear from them? Gage how proactive they are. If they’re only going to be reactive and pick up the phone when you have a problem, it’s often too late to do anything about it.
Could you have been claiming R&D tax credits? Should you have established an employee stock option earlier? Could you have implemented a credit control system before needing to get that loan? There are so many areas that a regular check-in with your accountant could really benefit a business.
Do they inspire you to run a better business?
Running a better business is the ultimate goal of any business owner. Compliance work is great, and Cloud technology and digital solutions save hundreds of hours each year.
But alongside that, your accountant should be able to help you see opportunities for growth, and help you build a business you can be proud of.
You might not find all these things in one person, or one firm, but you should never settle for less than you deserve. Getting this part of the business right is key to making sure you achieve the outcome you’re hoping for.
Deciding how to choose an accountant isn’t always simple. But with these key things to look out for, you should be able to choose the right accountant for you and your business.
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