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Many small business owners try to take on their own accounting tasks when they first launch their business, but there comes a time in every growing company when it makes sense to hire an accounting service to handle all the financial responsibilities. This way you can concentrate on growing your business, and you’ll also know that you have a team of experts on hand to provide the financial advice and support you need.
That’s because the best accounting service for your business will do a lot more than balance your books. They’ll also become your trusted financial advisor, so it’s crucial that you find the best firm for you.
Check out these 10 tips to ensure that you hire the right accounting service for your business.
1. Define Your Needs
Accounting services can vary a lot, which means you need to be clear on what your business needs are before you select the right service for you.
Consider what your business needs from an accounting service at the moment, and what it might need in the future. From your perspective, what is an accounting service for and what will they bring to your business?
Think about what role they’ll play in your business as it develops and grows. Are you also looking for financial advice, budgeting, or help setting financial goals?
Ideally, you should hire an accounting service as soon as you launch your business. But, whatever stage your business is at, it’s vital to define your criteria before making your final selection. The right service for you will meet all your requirements, as well as fulfilling the extra needs you didn’t even know you had.
2. Ask Around for Recommendations
Once you’re clear on the kind of accounting service you need, tap your contacts for recommendations.
That means asking your family, friends, and colleagues which accounting firm they’re using and if they’d recommend it. It’s also useful to ask business associates who work in similar industries for referrals.
Old-fashioned word-of-mouth is often one of the best ways to identify good candidates for your accounting service shortlist. Also, your industry trade association can often prove to be a useful resource, and your business attorney may have a recommendation for you.
3. Do Your Research
Some accounting firms might look good on paper, but it’s important to do your research before settling on your final choice.
This might include asking the firm specific questions about your goals and whether they have specialized services to support you. Plus, it’s wise to request references from their other clients.
You should also ask to meet the staff members who’ll be servicing your account. These are the people you’ll have contact with the most, so it’s important that they represent what you want and understand your needs.
Make sure you’re happy with the firm’s culture and that everyone’s on the same page when it comes to communication, goals, and needs. This way, you’ll help to avoid potential problems in the future.
4. Align Your Business Specialties
One of the benefits of hiring an accounting service is that they’re likely to specialize in several business areas. This way, they’re often able to offer their range of clients a better, more specific service.
After all, a great accounting service will do much more than balance your books. They’ll also keep tabs on your cash flow, maintain impeccable records to prepare you for the end of the financial year, and offer invaluable advice every step of the way.
But to do that, they need to understand the specific needs of your business as well as the industry you operate in. For example, a retail tax accounting service might not be as well-aligned with a hair styling business as an accounting service that specializes in helping clients in the hair and beauty sector.
5. Find out Their Fees
You don’t need an accountant to tell you that it makes good financial sense to hire the best firm you can afford. When it comes to accounting services, you get what you pay for and scrimping will only cost you more in the long run.
That said, fees can vary a lot, as well as the way an accounting firm charges. While some accounting services charge set rates for specific tasks, others charge by the minute, meaning you can expect to pay for every communication.
Make sure you’re clear on how much your potential accounting service’s fees are for the specific requirements of your business. It’s also helpful to get an idea of how much that will work out for you on an annual basis when tax returns or end-of-year reports are taken into account.
And, once you’ve settled on their fees, always ensure that you get the agreement in writing.
6. Check Their Level of Service
Some accounting firms don’t employ bookkeepers, meaning they’ll charge extra fees for their more expensive certified public accountants (CPAs) to complete bookkeeping tasks.
As such, if you want your accounting service to provide a full range of services at an affordable price, make sure you check what level of service the firm can provide based on their staffing.
Experienced, full-service accounting firms should be able to handle everything, including bookkeeping, payroll processing, and income tax preparation, without needing to outsource or charge added fees.
7. Ensure Relevant Experience
One of the advantages of hiring an accounting service is that their range of services and specialties allows them to diversify. This often means that they have more opportunities to gain greater insight and experience across different business models and industries.
But you want to make sure that this range of experience is relevant to you and your business. This means they need to have worked with clients running similar businesses to yours in terms of size, which ensures they’re able to understand the needs of a small business in comparison to those of larger businesses.
It also helps if they have relevant experience in the industry you operate in so they’ll be abreast of various regulations and obligations that might be specific to your industry.
8. Consider Your Communication Requirements
At the end of your first meeting with the accounting service, make sure they understand your requirements. This is especially important when it comes to the amount of advice you’ll need and the level of communication you want from them.
Your requirements here will depend on your experience and knowledge in financial matters. If you need a lot of help, knowing that they can respond to your communication needs is vital.
Some accounting services fulfill their duties when it comes to the necessary reports but offer little in the way of feedback and communication. Others are happy to offer advice at any time.
Ask the accounting service for some pointers on how you could manage your finances better. A good service should already have some money-saving ideas for you. This will show you whether they’re the kind of firm that’s quick to offer the feedback you need.
9. Prioritize Availability
Along the same lines, if you prefer an accounting service that is on hand to offer advice when you need it, ask about their availability.
It’s all very well if they’re happy to offer advice, but if that means having to schedule a time to go to their offices to talk in person at a scheduled time, that’s obviously not as convenient as an accounting service that’s a phone call away.
If ease of communication when and where you need it is a priority, make sure the accounting service will be available to match your requirements.
10. Look for a Personal Connection
Although you’re hiring an accounting service rather than an individual team member, it’s vital to feel a positive personal connection to the firm and their culture.
The right accounting service will make a huge difference to your business. This is especially the case if you need a lot of advice and financial guidance. As such, it’s crucial that you’re comfortable discussing your finances with them.
An accounting service might come with great references, but if they leave you feeling intimidated or confused, they’re not the right fit for you.
You need an accounting service with a team of accountants who are approachable and easy to talk to. After all, you’re entrusting them with the financial future of your business, so it’s important that you can envision that future with them.
Your Guide to Finding the Best Accounting Service
Finding the best accounting service for you and your business can seem like a daunting task, but by following this advice and making sure their services align with your needs across all these different measures, you can be sure that your business will be in good financial hands.