In theory, choosing an accountant and getting it right comes down to little more than ticking a few boxes – all of which can be addressed by asking the right questions. Of course, knowing what questions you should be asking is the most critical element of all as it’s only by arming yourself with the right queries that you can take full confidence in your decision.
So, with this in mind, what follows is a brief introduction to five of the most important questions to ask a prospective accountant for your business before going ahead. And while the list is not meant to be interpreted as exhaustive, each entry is as crucially important as the next:
1 – What Kind of Training Do You Have?
Right off the bat, some would suggest that you ask about education but it’s actually better to ask about training instead. The reason being that there are so many courses and learning opportunities that are offered outside the confines of standard universities and the like, which are important to take into account when making your decision. Of course, there’s a good chance you’ll be responded to with a speech outlining a ton of qualifications and certificates you’ve never heard of, so be sure to take notes and take the time to then look up anything you’d like have clarified.
2 – What Kind of Experience Do You Have?
Just as, if not more important the training is experience – as in real world experience of putting their skills and knowledge to the test. The reason being that it’s one thing to memorise an encyclopaedia of theory on paper, but another entirely to make it work when put into practice. As such, the ideal result here is to nail a good balance of the too – strong education and training coupled with excellent long-term experience. And of course, the quality of the experience they’ve had may be more important than the quantity thereof, so be sure to look at things logically and objectively.
3 – What is Your Primary Specialism?
There will always be those accountants which practice as ‘jack of all trades’ types and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with dabbling in multiple fields. However, it’s also important to make sure that the accountant you are interested in hiring has a good amount of experience in and knowledge of your specific business area. If you’re in the retail business for example and are self-employed, you’ll be in need of an accountant that knows this area of business solidly. There are of course many areas of accountancy that apply to all business areas across the board, but at the same time others are much more focused and refined. The better they understand you and your business, the better job they can do for you.
4 – Can I See Some Feedback?
There should by rights be plenty of feedback available without you having to ask for it in order to give you a fully comprehensive view of the accountant’s successes to date. If not, it’s imperative that feedback be requested as this is really the only information you have at your disposal that can be trusted as 100% impartial and objective across the board. It’s one thing for the accountant to tell you how great they are, but another for their clients to sing their praises on their behalf.
5 – Why Should I Choose You?
Last but not least, it’s common to overlook the fact that when you set out to hire an accountant for any reason you are in fact taking the role of recruiter and it is the accountant who is the applicant. When this happens, you find yourself asking about your own compatibility with them when in theory it should be the accountant that tries as hard as possible to sell their services to you. As such, one of the most important questions of all is that of exactly why them – as in why should you choose them over all other options available to you? If they really are up to the job, they should be able to lay out in simple terms why it is that they are able to give you a better overall service package than anyone else. From unrivalled experience to the lowest prices and really anything else that’s both beneficial and measurable, don’t be afraid to ask them to plead their case before agreeing to any deal.
Keep in mind the above questions and with a little added common sense, selecting the right accountant for any purpose really doesn’t need to be a difficult task.