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How to Choose the Right Accountant

Last updated October 30, 2012
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For any business, choosing the right accountant is a critical decision for any business owner. Pick the wrong accountant and it will cost you a lot of money, time, increased stress and anxiety. Choose the right accountant and our business life is much easier and hugely more profitable.

I am constantly frustrated by accountants who only look backwards. If you give your accountant your past trading figures and they'll tell you what you did wrong but probably not tell you how to do it right! Hopefully they will save you some tax in the process.

But, if you need help with monthly management accounts you are unlikely to get a commentary or forward looking view of your business from most accountants. As for getting help with forward cash flow forecasts, budgeting, capital expenditure ROI etc in too many cases the level of advice and ability to help the client in my experience, is relatively poor, especially bearing in mind the level of fees that accountants charge! Choose the right accountant and you'll get all of these benefits.

And sadly, there are far too many accountants who do not understand either the R&D tax credits system, Patent Box or the EIS & SEIS schemes for a growing SME. The right accountant will make sure that you both understand and take advantage of  this tax break.

What business's need are commercially minded management accountants and really good bookkeepers to actually help business owners grow and manage the inevitable strain on cash which comes hand in hand with any high growth business. Yes, an accountant is needed for year end tax returns etc but day to day expertise from accountants is very expensive and sadly of poor quality.

So, what accounting resources do you need in your business?

1. A really good bookkeeper and payroll expert, either in-house or out-sourced and not necessarily full time!

2. A management accountant - not full time, probably a couple of days a month , but also available at the end of the phone. These chaps will definitely help you keep your accountant on their toes - and they will also be great interpreting that financial jargon too

3. A chartered accountant for year end filing and tax.

Here are a few things to think about to help you choose the right accountant!

1. What do they know about your industry, market segments, international trading, your business, your aspirations and financial goals etc?

2. Ask them about R&D tax credits, SEIS & EIS and Patent Box - what experience do they have with these schemes - what is their success rate in securing these benefits for other client?

3. Do you understand what the accountant is saying to you - can he talk to you in your language?

4. Are they interested in your success or just their fees?

5. What accounting systems do they use - there are lots of new on-line systems available but most accountants seem to be stuck with Sage or Quick Books.

6. Do you think that you can learn something from them?

Accountants have a huge role to play in business growth - but they really do need to help their clients to look and plan for the future. Find the right accountant and your business will certainly fly much quicker than having a backward looking accountant on your management team!!

Shirley Mansfield
Master Business Problem Solver

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