When it comes to your business finances there’s a lot to take into account when picking a decent accountant. Here’s our guide of what to look out for, the red flags to avoid and what you can expect from a good accountant worth their weight in gold.
I picked up a new client last month who originally came to us for basic bookkeeping services. The plan was to work alongside this business’s existing accountancy firm. No problem! Or so we thought. We do this quite a lot and often work with existing accountants in a collaboration that works well for the business.
There were a few red flags from day one and my spidey senses told me all was not what it seemed. It was like getting blood out of a stone to try and access our client’s accounting software. Turns out this client had not been getting what they had been paying for – a little to none of the bookkeeping had been done as promised. The firm was rude, obtrusive and did not like being ‘found out’. It made me sad. I love what we do. I love accountancy and how we help businesses because money can be such a scary thing for many. What really winds me up is others in the profession letting the side down. There is just no need for it! So I have used my annoyance to pen this blog and let you know what you SHOULD be looking out for when picking a half-decent modern accountant.
Are They a Member of a Professional Body?
This accountancy firm was operating so badly, for the first time in my career I wanted to report them. I looked on their website for links to a professional body and was not shocked when I couldn’t find any!
Top tip – if you’re looking for a professional and qualified accountant they will be a member of a professional body. We are members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the logos are displayed proudly on our website to reflect that.
There are six chartered accountancy bodies which are:
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
- Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI)
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
- Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
Part-qualified accountants could have an Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) qualification.
Do They Have a Specialist Area?
You want your accountant to completely get and understand your business. Most accountants worth their salt will have a great grasp on business and be able to advise accordingly. If you are looking for an accountant with knowledge in a specific area this may be advantageous to your business. For example, if you are an e-commerce business, you might prefer to work with an accountant who specialises in this area. If you trade in other countries and not just the UK, you might want to seek the advice of an accountant who has experience working with companies like yours. Speak to your professional friends or look in social networks like LinkedIn for your specific profession and business and ask for recommendations.
Are They Easy to Pick Up The Phone To?
You should always feel like you can pick up the phone to your accountant and talk through your business challenges. You are paying an accountant for their services and no, this does not mean you get to connect once a year. A good accountancy relationship has regular communication. That’s why we meet with our clients every month to ensure we have open and honest conversations. We put our clients at ease and make them realise that they can ask us any question and discuss anything around their business finances. These chatting sessions also act as great education and build knowledge for our clients to make them more knowledgable business owners.
Our clients drop me messages on WhatsApp via text or voice note at other times if they have queries. It doesn’t always have to be a lengthy phone call. The point is, we have regular communication and are happy to answer any questions no matter how small.
Do You Hear from Them Proactively?
While management reports and monthly accounts are vital for any business, do you also discuss things in a proactive manner with your accountant? We are huge fans of Float cashflow forecasting at Insight Finance Solutions as it helps our clients to see different cashflow scenarios in their business. Working in a proactive manner allows us to make business decisions in real-time rather than working reactively when it is too late.
Do They Try and Control Your Business Decisions?
Some accountants like to work on the basis that they’re the cleverest people in the room. Spoiler alert, they’re often not and we certainly don’t always have all the answers.
We work with our clients to build their confidence and self-reliance. We know that if we provide clients with the information they need in a stress-free way, ask the right questions then actually STEP BACK, we give clients the information, support and most importantly the space they require to make the best decisions for their business all by themselves. After all, no one knows how to run a ship better than the captain!
This not only builds confidence but empowers our clients to trust in themselves and their own decision making. Teach a man to fish and all that!
Can You See Testimonials?
Hearing from previous or current clients is a good way to gauge whether an accountancy professional is going to be the right person for you. Don’t be scared to ask for testimonials. Any good accountant should have them and be able to point you in the right direction of a client who wouldn’t mind vouching for you.
Remember, when picking an accountant you are paying them for their skills and services and not the other way around. Don’t be scared to shop around for the right person and treat each one like a job interview. One of my current clients picked her last accountant because he bought a goat for a poor third world village for every client. This accountant ended up being the completely wrong fit and while it is noble that he bought a goat on her behalf, it wasn’t the right reason to hire him!
You have to feel like it is a good fit when hiring a new accountant so do your research, interview a few and go with the person who you will WANT to speak to on a regular basis.