Choosing the right accountant for your business

I read a piece on recently about how to choose the right accountant for your business.  I’ll summarise it  here and add my own few thoughts. By the way, the picture on the left pops up in a google image search for “accountants”. Not the typical image we have of an accountant perhaps!

The piece on starts off with great question and answer.

Q: What’s the definition of an accountant?
A: Someone who solves a problem you didn’t know you had in a way you don’t understand.

This Q&A is of course a bit of a joke, but it is often the case that the problems with many smaller businesses is that the owners don’t have the knowledge or time to work with the numbers. Or buying some accounting software is just not top priority. hence the need to hire an accountant.  Assuming you need to hire an accountant, here are some things to think about:

1 .  What do you need the accountant to do?

If your business needs regular information of an accounting nature, then it might be worthwhile actually employing an accountant. This might be the case in larger businesses. The alternative is to engage the services of an accountant as needed e.g. at year end.

2. What qualifications and experience should the accountant have?

Unfortunately, in Ireland the word “accountant” can be used by anyone. Therefore, be sure you engage someone who is a member of one of the recognised professional bodies.  If  it’s a book-keeper you need, ask for references from other clients. If your business is a start-up or small one, you might be better off avoiding larger accounting firms as these tend to be able to give you less time.

3. There is no substitute for a personal recommendation. Ask someone else in business questions like “Are you happy with your accountant?”, ” Does your accountant help your business”?. If you are hiring an accountant as an employee, check their references and ensure they have a professional qualification.

4. Going back to the Q&A at the start, can you talk to your accountant? Or ask this another way, can your accountant talk to you? You need someone you can understand your business and problems if has, and be able to communicate to you in simple terms. Go and meet any prospective accountant and you’ll get a feel for what I call their social skills.

5. Can your business and your accountant grow together?  Most smaller businesses will start off with an accountant doing accounts and tax returns at year end. But as your business grows (hopefully) can your accountant offer more services. This might be something as simple as working with you on expansion plans, but it is worth asking any prospective accounting firm what skills are within the firm.

To conclude, when you get to the point of needing an accountant, take your time to choose the right one.  Remember, the accountant is a key person in your business, both now, and in the future.

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About martinjquinn

I am an accounting academic, accountant and author based near Dublin, Ireland.

2 responses to “Choosing the right accountant for your business”

  1. anukram says :

    You blog is helpful but as a student accountant I’ll like to add that you missed the cost involved In small companies may not afford to hire fully qualified and experienced accountant.

    • martinjquinn says :

      Yes, you are correct, but I do start off by assuming that you can hire an accountant. An obvious problem for small business is of course the cost of hiring an accountant. Some accountants may work part-time for multiple companies – maybe 1 day a week – and this could be an option.

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