Your accountant can be one of the most valuable members of your company’s team. Here’s how to make sure you get the right one.
You probably think about an accountant mostly when it comes to your taxes, which means you might not see him or her more than a couple times a year. But that’s a pretty narrow view of what the right accountant can do for your company.
A good accountant is much more than a number-cruncher. (Face it, there are software programs that can do a pretty good job with that.) Smart business owners and operators understand this, and consider their accountants valuable extensions of the management team.
Still, there are almost 2 million accountants in the U.S., so finding the right one might take some work.
Here’s what the right accountant can do for you, and here’s how to find one.
The right accountant can take on a sort of business advisor role for your company. He or she sees not just the numbers, but the big picture.
With the confusion in today’s tax laws, an accountant’s role involves more than just preparing your company’s returns. In start-up or early-stage companies, an accountant can make recommendations regarding the most tax-advantaged business structure (incorporation, LLC, partnership, etc.).
For established companies, the accountant can offer advice regarding the timing of major equipment expenditures for better tax treatment, finding tax-advantaged investments for your cash reserves, and preparing for major changes in tax laws that will impact your company.
The right accountant understands your goals for your business.
How large can you grow your business and how fast? What does your company need – in terms of funding – to go to the next level. Does your projected cash flow support your growth plans?
In addition, the right accountant can be a great source for networking and referrals – for new customers, potentials hires, and other outside advisors – and all of these can be important to your company’s growth.
A Sounding Board
Many polls of small business owners have shown that accountants are the most trusted advisors that they deal with on a regular basis. You should feel this way about yours.
Accountants are smart, work with many kinds of businesses, and deal with many types of business problems. A good accountant can be your “go to” person for business advice.
Considering a new service introduction? Ask your accountant what she thinks, from both a financial and strategic point of view. Thinking of opening a new store, but unsure about where the economy’s going? See what the accountant thinks.
A fresh point of view, coupled with knowledge of your company’s financial situation can be very helpful when it comes to deciding what to do.
Personal Tax Planning
Your personal taxes are usually a separate issue from the company’s taxes, but the accountant with knowledge of both can give you solid advice in terms of retirement planning, investments, and even an exit plan.
Where to Look
You probably already guessed that referrals are the best way to start your search, and you’re probably right. Get on the phone and ask away.
Once you get a few names, make sure you establish the following:
Industry experience. The numbers might all work the same, but having an accountant who understands the challenges of your business can be a great asset. This allows him to offer appropriate advice specific to your situation, and saves you time you would have had to spend bringing him up to speed.
Approachability and comfort level. You don’t need to become best friends with your accountant, but you should at least feel comfortable when you’re asking questions or handing over personal information. Communication is key in the client /accountant relationship. Make sure you are able to discuss your company’s finances in a way that’s most productive for you.
Expenses. How will you be billed? Are there flat fees for quarterly or annual returns? Does she charge by the hour? Are short phone calls with one or two questions answered considered “on the clock?” None of this is necessarily bad. Just make sure you know what to expect.
The bottom line: Start thinking about your accountant as someone who can help take your business to the next level. The right individual can be a great investment in the future of your company.
If your accountant – or you – consistently worries about cash flow, consider an invoice factoring program with MP Star Financial. You can usually get paid on your invoices the same business day. Call for more information. (800) 833-3765, extension 150.