When searching for an accounting firm to assist with your small business financial functions, keep in mind that this will be a long-term relationship. If you do your due diligence in choosing the right firm for your company, the accountants should be around from the time your company is a small start-up through several expansions. For this reason, it’s critical to choose an accounting firm you can trust.
The problem with starting your search online is that you can end up sifting through a lot of irrelevant information before you come up with a list of potential accounting firms to hire. At Chicagoland CPAs, we recommend that you start your search by asking your connections for personal referrals instead. Here are some good places to start when seeking a referral to an experienced and trustworthy accounting firm:
- Your local Chamber of Commerce
- Your personal banker or lawyer
- Industry connections
- Small Business Administration
- Other small business owners
Once you have a small list of referrals, consider the factors outlined below when deciding which accounting firm to hire.
Experience and Certification is a Must
It’s notoriously challenging to pass the exam to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). This certification means that the accountant is especially knowledgeable in all areas of personal and business finance. Remember that every CPA is an accountant but not every accountant is a CPA. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask how many accountants at a firm you’re considering hiring have earned their CPA credential.
You also want to ensure that the firm requires its accountants to take continuing education courses to keep up with changing rules and regulations, especially those imposed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state governments. Years of experience is another critical factor to consider.
What Types of Services Do You Need?
If you’re thinking about hiring a one-person operation, make sure that person has the expertise needed to handle a wide range of functions. As your business grows, it’s more likely you will need to work with a team of accountants to ensure that it can help you with all financial business functions. It’s a good idea to consider the services you need carefully. While you might need only occasional bookkeeping help and tax preparation now, your business could need help with payroll, tax reporting, financial statement preparation, and much more as it grows.
Questions to Ask When Evaluating an Accounting Firm
Most accounting firms offer free initial consultations to help you determine if the company would be a good match to meet your needs. Preparing some questions in advance can help you make the most of this session. Here are some examples:
- How much experience do you have with my specific industry?
- What is your experience with small business clients?
- Do you bill hourly, by monthly retainer, or another method?
- What steps will you take to get to know my business?
- Who will I contact for my day-to-day needs?
Chicagoland CPAs would be happy to answer these questions and more during your consultation. Please contact us to set it up today.