Top 10 Questions to Ask to Find the Right Fit
As a small business owner, you’re juggling multiple responsibilities like supply and demand, marketing, and understanding your customer base. However, managing finances and taxes can be overwhelming, which is why it’s wise to call in the help of a financial professional. But with so many options available, how can you determine the right fit for your business?
To ensure you find the perfect match, we’ve curated a list of the top 10 questions to ask when vetting a financial professional. Don’t let financial management be a barrier to the growth and success of your business – find a capable expert who can guide you towards profit and stability.
1. Are you clear on the distinctions between a bookkeeper, an accountant, and a CPA?
A bookkeeper handles basic financial records for small businesses. An accountant manages more complex accounting tasks and has certifications, but is not licensed. A CPA, on the other hand, is licensed, can represent businesses in tax matters to the IRS, and is authorized to sign tax returns. While a CPA can also serve as an accountant or bookkeeper, the price increases with each level of licensure and certification. So, which financial professional is best for your business? Consider these factors carefully to make an informed decision.
2. Are you working with a financial professional who understands your unique business needs?
If you require a forensic accountant to help uncover any omissions or errors in collaboration with an IT professional, or a cost accountant who specializes in analyzing profit margins and supply chain costs, such as production and shipping expenses, or a CPA who can sign your tax returns and represent you with the IRS, be sure to clearly communicate your requirements. Confirm if the financial professional has experience in your specific needs and can offer these services as part of their regular duties.
3. Is the size of their company suitable for you?
Whether you require a part-time bookkeeper working from home or a larger accounting firm, there are plenty of options available. However, it’s essential to determine your specific needs. Are you seeking assistance with setting up your books and data entry, or do you need someone to handle payroll and reconcile everything for taxes? When engaging with a financial professional, provide them with a clear snapshot of your business, and inquire if they can meet your requirements.
4. Are you working in a specialized industry with unique financial requirements?
It’s essential to choose a bookkeeper, accountant, or CPA who is familiar with your industry’s intricacies. For instance, if you own a working farm and your income fluctuates seasonally based on beef and fruit/vegetable production, you’ll require an expert in farm accounting who can expertly handle tasks like depreciating farm equipment like trucks, tractors, and harvesters. Similarly, if you have a trucking company, you need a professional who can track and account for tariffs and IFTA taxes. Don’t settle for someone who lacks familiarity with your industry and its potential challenges. Choose an expert with experience in your specific industry to ensure your finances are managed accurately and efficiently.
5. How many years of overall experience does the financial professional have as well as in your industry?
When considering hiring a professional, it’s important to know their overall experience and how long they’ve worked in your industry. This can greatly impact their ability to maintain your business’s legal and financial health. Increased experience often means improved accuracy and a deeper understanding of compliance requirements, leading to greater stability. Don’t underestimate the value of a seasoned professional to help guide your business towards compliance and financial stability.
6. Will they do the work that you want, and how much will they involve themselves?
When seeking an accounting professional, it’s important to consider the scope of their involvement. Do you want someone who simply sets up your books, or a more hands-on approach with weekly receipt entering and bill payments? Are payroll and tax filing services required? Additionally, consider if you prefer a dedicated contact or are comfortable with whoever is available at the time of reaching out. Ensure your accounting needs are met by evaluating the level of service provided.
7. How do they charge, and how much?
When choosing an accounting firm, it’s important to understand how they charge for their services. Understanding their pricing structure and rates is equally important. Some firms may charge for every phone call or email, while others use hourly billing. It’s wise to ask for the typical rates for the tasks you require to establish a clear understanding of their fees and services. By doing so, you’ll ensure transparency and clarity in their billing.
8. Does the financial professional have solid references?
It’s always helpful to ask within your industry for recommendations on a trusted accounting professional. Additionally, who else has the professional worked with and how satisfied were their former clients? Is there someone in your network who can recommend an exceptional accounting professional? Do not hesitate to inquire among peers regarding successful financial experts. Remember, sometimes the best way to find a great accountant is to simply ask around.
9. Ask the financial professional, “What questions should I have asked, but didn’t?”
During your financial consultation, this is a great technique to assess their familiarity and experience with your business and industry. This also gives them a chance to showcase their level of expertise. Don’t miss out on this valuable opportunity to evaluate your financial professional.
10. “Do I feel comfortable with this person?”
After completing your interview questions, evaluate whether you feel at ease with the candidate by reflecting with yourself. Arrange a face-to-face meeting with your favored choices and pay close attention to their nonverbal cues. While not entirely infallible, we tend to discern better in-person than over the phone. If the candidate doesn’t put you at ease, show gratitude for their time and continue your search.
In the world of business, success or failure is often determined by financial performance. It’s crucial to have an experienced professional who can monitor your financial position, alert you to potential risks, and guide you towards your desired level of growth. Take charge of your bottom line by making an informed decision about who manages your finances.
About The Author: Marsa C. Myers currently serves as a WV SBDC Business Coach. She is a Certified Business Advisor and earned her masters degrees in Public Administration and English from West Virginia University. Her favorite music is classic rock, her favorite person is her dog, Jack, a Dutch Shepherd/Lab mix, and she loves spending time outdoors in her garden. Want to connect with Marsa? Visit here.