Finding a good accountant for your business can be a challenging process, so how can you increase your chances of getting it right first time?  Like any recruitment process, you’re going to be looking for a balance of skills, personality, flexibility and cost.

So if you want someone to support your business who can put their finger on your financial pulse, here are our 5 tips for getting what you want.

Finding a good accountant

1. Responsibilities

There will be many potential compromises in your search for the right accountant. Take some time upfront to outline exactly what you want to get out of the relationship, both in terms of support and by defining specific responsibilities. These could range from simple tasks such as inputting numbers through to more complex processes such as: managing tax on a business and possibly personal level; managing cash flow at acceptable levels and recognising potential financial problems early on; and identifying opportunities for growth by analysing existing numbers.  Whatever you decide you want your accountant to do, the details you set out here will form the foundation of your thinking around who you would like to support your business.

2. Location

We live in a technologically advanced age where you don’t have to sit in the same room in order to manage a working relationship. In fact, you don’t even need to sit in the same country or time zone. When you’re balancing the attributes you’re looking for in your accountant, it’s worth remembering that the wider you cast your net, the more likely you are to find a candidate with the skills and experience you’re looking for.

Be mindful of the fact that there will be compromises to be made if you choose a long distance relationship. If your business would benefit from having an accountant on hand to attend meetings then remote employment may not be ideal. It’s also worth noting that if you are recruiting from outside your home country you will still need an accountant who is aware of the local challenges with regard to financial management, especially in areas such as tax.

3. Trust

Your business has a specific need for accounting support so how do you find the candidate who can meet that need? Firstly it’s important to ensure that you can trust that the skill level of your future accountant is appropriate and current. Certification processes may vary by country so you’ll need to do some desktop research if you’re recruiting overseas or outside your home market: but usually you will be looking for a Chartered Accountant, or in some cases a Certified Public Accountant.

Secondly you need to be sure that the accountant that you employ has skills relevant to your unique needs as a business. That means ensuring that they have worked in similar sectors so that they have an understanding of the challenges of your market. If you’re considering recruiting an accounting firm or consultant, you can also request their current client list so that you can get an idea of the type and size of clients they are currently managing. Why not also ask how long the clients have been with the firm? It’s a great indicator for how satisfied they are.

Check back to the list of roles and responsibilities that you set out for your accountant and be clear about the level of expertise you feel they should have in order to fulfil your expectations.  Expertise may also vary by accounting system so be clear as you proceed which systems (if any) your business uses, and check what your candidate prefers and recommends. This could have a major impact on the accounting processes of your business as you grow so it’s worth spending some time to understand the options upfront.

4. Referral

By now you should be armed with your wish list for what you would like to find in an accountant and what your business needs. It’s time to make your network work for you and let people know what you’re looking for. The best way to find some candidates to fill your shortlist is to let people who know your business help you to find the right fit. Be as clear as you can about who and what you are looking for – especially with regard to experience and expertise.

Don’t limit your search to your business network, it’s also worth exploring your social network to find out if any of your peers or social connections can recommend a good candidate. Be mindful that recommendations from friends and families may not be as altruistic as those of your business network, so again it’s important to define exactly what kind of accountant you are looking for.

5. Cost

In the process of finding the accountant that you want, it’s going to be important to consider their salary – whether you hire internally or use an accounting firm or individual to support your business. You will already be aware of the balancing act between cost and expertise, so why not focus on expertise first before getting too hung up on hourly rates or salary packages.

One of the greatest challenges in recruitment is finding the right fit for your business in terms of personality, skills and experience. Consider setting broad salary parameters, then review your position once you have gone through the process of finding someone who ticks your boxes. If you discover the ideal candidate is outside your financial reach consider reshuffling responsibilities and reducing hours. You will invariably get more value from fewer hours with the right person than more hours with the wrong one.

Once you identify that your business needs some help in the numbers department, it can be a challenging process finding the right solution to meet your needs. Whether you choose to recruit internally, hire an accounting firm, or contract in an expert: you will benefit from taking time to be clear about what your requirements are upfront. Shortlist your candidates and revisit your requirements through interviews that allow you time to find the right fit for you and your team. If you don’t have a lot of experience with accounting it might be worthwhile getting someone who does to help you with the interview process. And of course don’t forget to reference check thoroughly in order to support your understanding of the expertise and experience you will be hiring. Then you can proceed with choosing your new accountant and look forward to the support their expertise will bring to your business.

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