Balancing the books: what to look for in a small business accountant

There is no room for error when it comes to managing the finances of your small business. With excellent bookkeeping and accounting practices, business owners have the tools to analyse their success and make better business decisions.

It’s a common misconception that small business owners only require an accountant at tax time. While it’s undoubtedly essential to have an accountant manage your business tax, it’s their continued support that benefits small businesses the most. Whether it’s regulatory compliance or financial reports, small business accountants like HKMP offer a wide range of services that keep your business running smoothly.

Searching for a small business accountant comes with an element of personal preference, but there are some key traits to look out for that will narrow the search significantly.

Here’s what to look for in a small business accountant.

They have proven certification and experience

First things first, make sure your accountant is certified.

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is trusted and qualified to handle the finances of individuals and businesses. With a strong background in economics and math, CPAs are equipped with the right knowledge to keep accurate records and offer sound financial advice.

Certification is not easy to come by, taking up to seven years to complete. This level of specialised education is what makes a CPA an expert in accounting.

Besides certification, an excellent small business accountant will have proven financial management experience among various other businesses. Experience indicates an accountant’s ability to adapt and shows they’ve had success in their career. Diverse accounting experience is essential in trusting your business’ finances are in good hands.

They’re great communicators

A small business accountant should communicate in a way you can understand.

Accounting is filled with professional jargon. If you haven’t studied to become a CPA, it’s unlikely you’ll know the extensive glossary of accounting terminology.

Unlike large corporate accountants, small business accountants have a personal relationship with their clients, often meeting face-to-face to discuss business decisions. An accountant who respects your time will speak your language and encourage a two-way conversation. After all, this is your business, and your accountant is working for you.

They offer an extensive range of services

Find an accountant that does more than the basics.

Most small business owners are capable of handling the bare minimum of their business accounting. But, if you want to run a successful business and avoid costly mistakes, the bare minimum simply doesn’t cut it.

The more financial services your accountant provides, the better. An accountant who goes beyond bookkeeping or tax and offers all the extras is one that has your business’s best interests at heart.

Find an accountant that offers both accounting and business advisory services. It’s one thing to balance your books, but it’s another to want to help you improve your business. Business advisory encompasses a range of services, from planning to growth, giving you the right professional advice to take your business to the next level.

They’ll support you throughout your business lifecycle

A good accountant will stick with you throughout your business’ lifecycle, from inception to exit.

From your earliest conversations, your accountant should make it clear that they’re in it for the long haul. This will reassure you that they will keep track of where your business is and provide the right advice at the right time.

Establish your accountant’s level of support early in your relationship. While your focus will be on growing your business, you’ll need them to help you sell your business one day. Looking this far ahead is a reality of business ownership, and an accountant who can support you to the end is one worth pursuing.

They give you a good gut feeling

Follow your instincts.

You’ll know in your first meeting whether you and your accountant will work well together. If your intuition tells you that they’re not the right fit, go back to the drawing board.

An accountant’s expertise may be undeniable, but it will be challenging to establish a partnership if they don’t have the attitude to match. You’ll have frequent interaction with your accountant throughout your business venture, so you want to make sure you feel right about the decision you make. The better the relationship between you and your accountant, the more likely they will go the extra mile for you.

With plenty of accounting firms to choose from, there’s no harm in seeking out a few different candidates. Your accountant will have a significant impact on your small business, so be sure to find one that ticks all the boxes.

Dee