What type of businesses do you work with?
Before hiring an accountant, you will want to be sure that they work with your type of business. For example, if an accounting firm focuses on assisting larger businesses, the small amount of work required by a small business might not be worthwhile to them. An accountant who focuses on small businesses will understand the specific challenges small business owners face. It can also help if the accountant has experience in your specific industry, but this isn’t always necessary because many accountants work across different sectors. If you run a manufacturing firm, for instance, there will specific issues that need to be addressed. For a more complex business, a management accountant will have the skills needed to assist the business.
Examples of questions you might ask include:
- Are you comfortable working with small businesses?
- Do you have knowledge and experience in my industry?
How do you work with clients?
You will want to know how the accounting professional will work with you, including how will they communicate. Some accountants will help you with your tax reporting obligations and assist you when you call for help. Others will take a more proactive approach and assist you in improving your business results. These services could include creating a business budget, monitoring your financials and providing feedback on what they think are problem areas. Some accountants stay in touch with their clients and provide useful information. This can include informative email newsletters and workshops that help you keep up to date with change and help you grow your business.
You will also need to consider how the accountant will communicate. If you’re the type of person who likes to speak over the phone or in person, as opposed to by email, you will want to ask the potential accountant how they will communicate with you.
Which online accounting software do you work with?
If you have already set up your online accounting software – such as Xero, MYOB or Quickbooks – you will want to make sure the accountant works with it. This is important because there will be times when they need to log-in to view or update your data. Some accountants specialise in supporting a particular online accounting software, so you will want to determine that upfront.
If you come across an accounting firm that doesn’t actively support cloud accounting solutions, this is a red flag that they are not up to date with technology. In a fast-moving business environment, cloud accounting will enable an accountant to provide virtual accounting services, including advice when it’s needed.
What qualifications do you have?
In Australia, accounting qualifications include the CPA (Certified Practising Accounting) and CA (Chartered Accountant). These are certifications from professional accounting bodies. There are differences between the two qualifications. The CA is more focused on auditing and tax issues, while the CPA has a broader focus, including areas such as business strategy. It’s also a good idea to ask for references when hiring an accountant. Keep in mind that an accountant has a higher knowledge level than a bookkeeper or tax agent. If you simply need bookkeeping to start out with, you don’t need an accountant for this. However, an accountant will probably be able to recommend a bookkeeper for your business.
Do you understand our accounting needs?
You will want to discuss what your requirements are with the potential accountant. If they understand what you are looking for, they can determine whether their services fit with your needs. If the accounting firm specialises in working with medium-sized enterprises and you have a new small business, it might not be the right fit. For this reason, you will want to explain the services you will need to the potential accounting professional.
Who will I be working with at the accounting firm?
If you like a particular person and their approach, you will want to know who will be delivering the services to you. In many accounting firms, work will be delegated to other members of the staff. In this case, you will want to know who you will be working with at the accounting firm and ensure that you will be happy working with them.