Your accountant is a key player in your success team. A good accountant can not only save you a ton of money on taxes, but can also help you structure your company to help position it for long-term success. On the other hand, an accountant that isn’t on the same page as you can cause all kinds of hiccups and confusion.
So how do you find a great accountant, whether you’re looking to hire in-house or outsource?
==> Basic Competence
Start by testing their basic competence. Ask them questions about your business. Talk about different account types. Describe your tax situation and ask for their input.
If they seem confused, if they don’t seem like they “get it” or if they seem stumped by basic business or basic accounting questions, then run the other direction.
==> Understanding of Your Industry
You should try to hire an accountant that understands your industry. It’s not required, but getting someone new caught up to speed is often not worth the hassle.
Every industry has its own accounting quirks. Internet start-up accountants need an in-depth knowledge of stock options, while accountants for stock traders need an in-depth understanding of mark-to-market accounting. Learning these skills takes time – and time costs money.
==> Ability to Get Things Done
You don’t want an accountant who needs babysitting. You want to hire someone who can take on an assignment and run with it. You want someone who can gather their own resources, resolve problems on their own and finish projects without asking you for help every step of the way.
==> Ability to Communicate
There are a few key areas where communication comes into play.
First, they need to be able to clearly communicate what they need from you or what they need from your staff. Paperwork should never be delayed because people didn’t know what was needed from them.
Your accountant also needs to be able to clearly communicate concepts, tax strategies and financial statements in plain English. If you can’t understand what your accountant is saying half the time, chances are you need a new accountant.
==> Understanding of Your Risk Tolerance
Your accountant should not only understand your risk tolerance, but be willing and eager to work within your risk tolerance.
If you run a high speed, fast growth start-up company, your accountant needs to be able to keep pace with that kind of growth. They need to be able to help you in your high speed goals – by suggesting (legal) tax deferment strategies, by referring you to investors, etc.
If your risk tolerance is low, they need to be able to work with you at that speed as well. Your accountant needs to explore every potential liability before taking action. They should outline the potential danger of every strategy and take the safest route possible unless otherwise directed.
These are some of the most important things to look for in an accountant. Your accountant is a key part of your team, so it really does pay to spend some time and energy on finding an accountant you can trust.