Questions to help you find a new accountant
Do you need to get an accountant?
Perhaps you have one, but do you need to find a new accountant?
Every accountant is not the right accountant for every business. Accountants also have changing commitments or even stop working, so a new accountant may not even be your choice, but a necessity.
Just like any professional service, individuals have different ways of working, different experiences and different personalities.
So, what should you ask to make sure you don’t end up needing a new accountant every month?!
After all, if you choose someone that isn’t right for you and your business, it’s time consuming and just annoying, to be honest.
THINGS TO CONSIDER FIRST WHEN CHOOSING A NEW ACCOUNTANT
Firstly, be very clear to yourself what you want and need.
- Why do you need a new accountant?
- What do you want them to do for you and/or help you with? Prioritise them.
- What do you like and dislike about your current accountant?
- Where do you want your business to be in 5 years and how could an accountant help you get there?
Next, when doing your initial research, consider more than just locality. Expand your search beyond ‘accountant [name of local town/county]’!
Look for accountants who have experience and/or similar past clients in your industry. Explore their website and social media to learn more about them.
You may want an accountant local to you, to meet with. However, with the modern technology we all are using these days, the fact that you can’t meet face to face is really not a reason to not use a certain accountant. There is so much we can offer online. It’s much more important to consider what the new accountant can do for you and your business.
QUESTIONS TO ASK A POTENTIAL ACCOUNTANT
When you have identified one or more potential accounts you’d like to work with, I would highly recommend arranging a call to get to know them better.
Here are some questions to ask to help you with your assessment of whether they are the right accountant for you:
- Do you work with the industry my business is in?
As mentioned above, industry or profession experience can be really important with bookkeeping and accounting best practice. From a business perspective, an accountant with industry-specific knowledge can also share experiences and help guide your business decisions more effectively.
- What types of clients have you worked with and what were their challenges?
Ask the accountant to tell you about their clients and their challenges (clients’ not the accountants ). Whilst some of our work is confidential we can talk broadly about our clients and experiences. At this stage, you don’t want to just hear about problems, moans and groans, you should assess the accountant on how they talk about their clients, and see what tips, advice and support was given on how to overcome those challenges. Make sure to remember them!
- What services do they offer? Which ones do you like best?
These questions are especially important if you want more then your tax return doing on an annual basis.
Running your own business is not easy and with the situation changing so quickly around us, knowing your numbers is important. So, I would expect all business owners to have access to their figures in ‘real time’. Following your first ‘task’ (see above), you should know in advance what types of services and support you require, so see if these marry up with what the new accountant offers.
- What’s your preferred communication method?
I know some clients don’t mind email; some like a phone call; others a WhatsApp message! If you have a strong preference, make sure your new accountant can accommodate this.
- Do your have a preferred app stack and/or software brands?
You might have some software and apps already for your accounting that you are contracted to or simple prefer. You might have some specific apps that you are using for your business or are industry-specific. If your accountant is not familiar with them, it could be an issue to be honest.
Just the fact that they haven’t heard of an app, doesn’t mean that they are no good, but it’s good to discuss these things early on, especially if you feel strongly about what you wish to use from a software or app perspective.
- How long is the minimum contract period?
We are all hoping for a long term relationship because we are all busy and finding the right person is not always easy. With a new accountant, it also takes a while to set everything up. HMRC are quite slow and there will be quite a bit of information to pass on. Both you and the new accountant will be investing time in to this relationship, so hopefully it lasts years. However, if it doesn’t quite work out as you’d hoped, it’s good to have options and to be able to renew (or stop) a contract.
- What are your prices?
I know you wanted to ask this question first! However, I do not believe that the most expensive accountant is going to be the best, and…I can almost guarantee you that the one that is a lot cheaper, definitely won’t!
I always say to my clients, “Do not compete on price, but compete to provide the best possible service/product”. It’s no different for accountants.
Compare prices with other quotes and what you are currently paying not just on that amount but also what services you are getting. They will not all be ‘like-for-like’. You need to identify your ‘must haves’ from your accountant, as well as how well you feel you will work together.
Paying an accountant is not an expense – it’s an investment! A good accountant will help you to achieve your goals and will give you back time to enjoy life.
HOW TO DECIDE WHICH NEW ACCOUNTANT TO USE
I can hear you asking, “But, still, how do I know that the service provided will be good?” Nothing in life is certain, but it is why I am suggesting a whole list of questions, before you even broach price. You want to have a proper conversation with any potential new accountant. You can share your thoughts, ideas and what you think they need. It should be a discussion, the first stage of getting to know each other, not just the accountant telling you what they do.
Embrace the experience. Listen to what they are saying and how they react to your suggestions. Never worry about asking too many questions, either. It is important you feel you know everything you need to know, before making a commitment.
Having said all that, it is amazing how a short conversation gives you a great insight. And I am pretty sure by the end, you will know if you can trust them and if you like their way of working.
While this blog aims to provide helpful information, it’s important to remember that every business and person is unique. So, before making any decisions, we highly recommend seeking professional advice. We want to ensure that you have all the support you need to make the best choices for your situation!