By Xero

Finding the right accountant for your business is as important as choosing the right business partner. Your accountant becomes a true colleague; someone you can trust and depend on. Someone who, as your business grows, will offer you the financial guidance and advice you need to succeed. But first you’ve got to find the perfect accountant for you – so, how do you find them?

Top tips for choosing an accountant

Choosing the right accountant isn’t something you should rush into. Think carefully and make sure you’ve considered some broad questions about what you need from an accountant. Does their practice need to be nearby? How do you want to divide the financial workload? What type of accounting software will you use? Will they be able to help you minimise your business taxes?

Picking an accountant who’s got proven experience is in the best interests of your company’s future. They’ll be handling one of the most important areas of your business – your finances. Finding the right person is going to save you time, money and a lot of stress along the way. So we’ve pulled together ten of the most important points to consider when you start your hunt for the perfect accountant.

1. Ask yourself if location matters: Do you need your accountant to be based nearby? With cloud accounting and meetings over Skype or Google Hangouts, location can become less of an issue. But if you value traditional, face-to-face meetings, or catching up over a coffee then you need an accountancy practice that’s fairly close by.

2. Choose a certified or chartered accountant: Experience and qualifications count. Certified or chartered accountants have studied long and hard to pass the required exams. They know their stuff and they’re also professionally regulated by the relevant industry bodies. You could choose a non-qualified account to handle your bookkeeping, tax preparation and general financial management. But you’ll definitely need a certified or chartered accountant if you ever have to take out a loan, or if the business is audited.

3. Look for an accountant with relevant expertise: You’ll need an accountant who’s got experience of the taxation laws and business legislation for the countries you trade in. And you need them to understand the financial challenges faced by a business of your size in your particular market. It pays to find an accountant who understands your particular industry sector – and can apply their expertise to helping you achieve financial success.

4. Talk to government and business associations: Small businesses are the heart of any economy. Government and business associations understand this and aim to encourage entrepreneurialism and business growth. Take advantage of these associations and networks to help you find the right accountant. Building relationships with other members will bring you the advantage of word-of-mouth recommendations and accountants who have watertight credentials and experience.

5. Tap into your social networks and online networks: You’ll already have a network of friends, ex-colleagues and business contacts who you talk to about your business. And you’re no doubt connected to many of these people through social networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Use this valuable resource: ask people for their recommendations for a good accountant. Put a message out there and see what feedback you get – you may already know someone with a connection to the perfect accountant for you.

6. Decide how the accounting work will be divided: Accountants will often charge their time at an hourly rate. So it makes sense to do some of the simple data-entry tasks, like bookkeeping, yourself. This gets you more involved in your own accounting and broadens your financial understanding – and agreeing who’s responsible for what will minimise the size of your bills.

7. Get someone who’s proactive about saving you money: You could hire an accountant who just does your books and fills out your tax return. But someone who’s more proactive about saving your business money is going to really help your bottom line. Making the most of tax breaks for small businesses and entrepreneurs can save you significant outlay in tax – but make sure you’re managing your tax situation, not evading the tax you’re legally bound to pay.

8. Find out what software the accountant uses: There are plenty of tech-savvy, cloud-based accountants out there. But there are also practices that still use desktop-based, or server-based accounting solutions. As a 21st century digital business, you’re going to get a much better experience from partnering with a cloud-based accountant. Software like Xero gives you and your accountant access to your numbers anytime, anywhere – from any device. And that means a faster, more efficient financial process.

9. Always negotiate fees: Historically, accountants have charged for their services by the hour. So if your job drags on, you’ll end up paying more. Forward-thinking practices are coming around to the idea of bundled, set-fee packages. With this value-driven approach, you know from the outset what you’ll be paying and what services your accountant will be providing. Always take the time to talk through fees and negotiate on price.

10. Learn to use and trust your intuition: When you’ve found an accountant you think fits the bill, be sure to do some background research on them. How long have they been practising? Do any of your network have experience of their work? Do their fees seem reasonable in comparison to their competitors? And most importantly, when you meet them do they feel like the optimum person for the job? Trust your intuition and ask yourself if this the right person – after all, you’ll be spending a lot of your business hours working very closely with this person.

Good accountants will help your company grow

Your accountant will become an integral part of your business. So finding the right person and building a good working relationship with them is going to be critical to the growth and success of your venture. You need someone you can trust, who has the right experience and who’ll be there when you need them.

If you take our top ten tips into account, we’re sure you’ll find the right accountant for you.

You can read more on How to choose the right accountant on our Small Business Guides pages.