"If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you've got to learn to delegate" — Richard Branson
Delegation is often hard for a small business owner. Your business is your baby and turning over important tasks to an “outsider” (or even a family member!) can be scary. However, there’s one area where delegation is essential – accounting. Unless you have a background in business bookkeeping or accounting, financial tasks can be daunting. Even more importantly, you might be losing money without a solid professional in place.
Here’s information about identifying the financial needs of your company and hiring the right accountant.
Services Provided by an Accountant
Are you aware of all of the services an accountant can provide? More than just bookkeeping, an accountant can be a trusted partner as you establish and grow your business. Here are some of the services you might want managed by a professional.
- Setting up financial systems and processes
- Maintaining financial records
- Tax planning, preparation and filing
- Business book auditing/preparation for an outside audit
- Handling payroll to ensure that employees tax codes and payments are correct
Signs You Need an Accountant
Not sure if you need to bring on an accountant and the associated costs? Here are some solid signs that an accounting professional could help your small business.
- You aren’t familiar with accounting terms and processes. You don’t need to be numbers savvy to start and run a business. However, you’ll discover fairly quickly if your knowledge is lacking. If cash flow, balance sheets, liabilities and other accounting terms are a mystery to you, it’s time to bring in a professional.
- You don’t have knowledge about the U.S. tax code. Taxes can be extremely complicated. An accountant can file your taxes for you and let you know about the appropriate credits and deductions. If you don’t have an expert on board during tax season you could end up losing money.
- Your time is limited. Are you already putting in 40+ hours a week to run your business? Rarely do we speak with entrepreneurs who have spare time on their hands. Don’t let keeping the books take valuable time away from running and building your business.
Hiring Best Practices
Here’s information that can help as you look for an accountant that’s the right fit for your business.
Where to Search?
Now is not the time to place a CraigsList ad! According to Entrepreneur, the best way to find a good accountant is to get a referral. Check with your attorney, banker or another business owner. The Society of Certified Public Accountants in your state can also make referrals or check with a local college.
On Staff, Contract, Outside Firm?
There are many small businesses that can get all accounting needs met by one outside accountant. Other businesses have more complex needs and require a full-service accounting firm. Some businesses prefer to have an accountant on staff. Once you’ve determined your needs and looked at your budget, you can decide which direction to go.
What are the Responsibilities?
Take a look at all of the financial responsibilities of your business. Where do you need a professional to take the reigns? Make a list and be sure to hire someone who checks all of the boxes you require.
Do they Have Small Business Experience?
Small businesses present unique situations and challenges. Make sure the accountant you bring on has experience in the areas where you need support – taxes, audits, financial records, bookkeeping, etc. If possible, find a professional who has worked with other businesses in your industry before. A restaurant owner might have different needs than someone running an e-commerce company.
Is the Personality a Fit?
Is the accountant's style and personality compatible with yours? If you’re looking at bringing on a firm, determine who will be your point person. The CPA you initially meet with might not be one you work with day-to-day.
What’s the Cost?
You should always ask about fees upfront. Firms can charge by the hour or work on a monthly retainer. The same is true of an individual CPA.
You shouldn’t base your decision on only cost – weigh experience as well.
Before you make your final decision, ask to speak with current and past clients, ideally in your industry. Reach out to gauge satisfaction with the accountant's services, fees and availability.
If you’re ready to start the search for an accountant, review this article from a writer with 10 years of public accounting experience: 5 Mistakes Small Businesses Make When Hiring a CPA
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