Getting it right when the time comes to select an accountant can be tricky, as it’s not as if anyone is born knowing what questions to ask or qualities to look out for. Just as the right accountant can make life so much easier, a poor choice can lead to a partnership that’s genuinely more of a hindrance than a help…the latter of course being the outcome best avoided.
The good news however is that in theory at least, making the right decision is technically no more difficult than ticking a few essential boxes along the way. There are certain universal traits and qualities that every good accountant should possess and present, so if you just make sure that all such bases are covered, the rest largely takes care of itself.
So, with this in mind, here’s a quick look at the most important factors of all to consider when choosing an accountant:
1 – Qualifications
Unsurprisingly, qualifications really do matter when it comes to taking on these kinds of dedicated professionals. While there will always be exceptions to the rule, there’s generally a huge and notable difference between an accountant who studied at home using the cheapest and easiest-to-pass distance learning course on the market, and another who studied at the country’s best learning institutions. This isn’t to say that the latter is the only acceptable option of course, but nonetheless illustrates the importance of looking into qualifications before making your final choice.
2 – Experience
While qualifications are important, it’s often said that nothing matters more than real-world experience. The reason being that while any given person may have all the education in the world, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve yet had the opportunity to put their skills to the test in a real-life setting. By contrast, others with fewer qualifications on paper may have reached the highest levels of the industry through little more than hard work and commitment.
3 – Specialism
Accountancy is a pretty enormous industry and subject area to say the least and one that must be sought in accordance with who you are and what you need. Or to put it another way, while some accountants may be fantastic for small businesses working in the retail sector, others might have absolutely no experience in either sense. The simple fact of the matter here is that the closer the accountant matches the profile of your own business and its needs, the higher the likelihood of a partnership that works. And with so many accountants out there covering every need and industry area imaginable, there’s really no sense in settling for a half-match.
4 – History
Something else to look into prior to signing on the dotted line is exactly how long the prospective accountant has been in business for. This is again something of a grey area in some instances as just in the same way that long-term history doesn’t necessarily guarantee great service, a shorter track record doesn’t rule it out. What’s important to look for a name that’s at least modestly established and has a strong track-record the likes of which breeds confidence.
5 – Feedback
More often than not, there’s nothing more important than strong feedback when it comes to evaluating the abilities and skills of any given accountant. Assuming they’ve worked with any clients at all in the past, it’s 100% safe to say that there will be reviews and write-ups to be found somewhere online. They should of course be available via the provider’s website unless they’re trying to hide something, but in any and all cases a quick web search can be quite revealing.
6 – Costs
Last but not least, it’s always a good idea to be as open and honest as possible from day one when it comes to the costs to expect. First of all, there’s really no place for paying up-front fees these days before any work has been performed – this just isn’t how business is done anymore. In addition, there’s no room at any level or in any business area for charging clients for initial consultations or arrangements, which means that if the accountant you’re looking at will attach a fee to the first meeting, you might be looking at a dud. Last but not least, never overlook the importance of bringing the subject of hidden fees and charges into the open as while most accountants these days are wholly above board, there will always be those that like to sting their clients out of the blue for their own personal gain.