Once you’ve recognised that you need to change accountants, the next step is to select the right one for your situation.
This can start with reviewing other accountants’ websites and asking friends and family for recommendations. Then once you’ve got a shortlist, it’s time to contact them.
Most accounting firms will offer some sort of free consultation to new clients. This is your opportunity to check them out further and start to get a quote for their services.
But what should you be looking for? To help you, we’ve used our 25 years’ experience in public practice to come up with the top 4 tips on how to choose the right accountant for you.
Make sure you get on well with the accountant and their team
It’s really important that you’re comfortable with your accountant and their team.
You will have a close working relationship with them for years to come. They will get to know some of your most personal details and will have to give you life-changing and sometimes confronting advice. You want to work with someone you’re comfortable with and who you click with on a professional level.
Be careful here, though. Sometimes the person you meet might not be the person you end up working with. Partners in accounting firms can often sign up new clients but then delegate the client to a manager to look after. It’s important you ask who you will be working with and if it’s not them, make sure you meet who it is.
There’s no point selecting an accountant you’re not comfortable with.
Make sure they have the right skills, experience and services to help you now and in the future
Once you’ve found an accountant and you’re comfortable with them, the next question should be, do they have the right skills, experience and services to support me, both now and in the future.
This depends on your situation, but for example:
- If you’re in business, then make sure you select an accountant who is looking after business owners and has services that support businesses.
- If you use Xero as your accounting software, then make sure they are experienced with that software.
- If you want someone to work closely with you to help minimise your tax or to support you to interpret your numbers, then make sure they have the services that will help you do that.
- If you have any special circumstances, then make sure they are able to help you.
The important thing is to make sure the accountant has experience in the areas where you need their help. And when looking at that, make sure you take your future plans into consideration.
Make sure they can give you the right level of support and service
This is a hard one as most people will promise the earth in the initial meeting. But it’s often not until you start dealing with the accountant on a day-to-day basis that you find out what they’re truly like.
Some of the tell-tale signs you can watch out for are as follows:
- Are they making specific promises that they can be held accountable to about the level of service and support? If they are, it doesn’t guarantee anything, but it does show that they are taking it seriously.
- Have they been prompt when dealing with your enquiry? If they can’t get to you quickly when you’re a potential client, then in all likelihood they’ll be even worse when you’re a client.
- Are there client testimonials on their website, Google or social media that provide some third-party evidence of their level of service and support. What are other people saying about them?
- Are they keeping their website and social media up to date, including regular useful articles and information?
- What is the staff-to-partner ratio? Often, the more staff a partner has, the busier they are. That means they will either take a long time to get back to you or will have to delegate the task to someone else. Either way, this could affect service and support.
- Is the firm in a stable state or is it going through changes like high growth or new ownership? Any fundamental changes in the firm could potentially affect service and support.
These are just some of the things you can look out for. You’ll start to get a gut feeling as you deal with the accounting firm. Keep an eye on everything and look out for those tell-tale signs to see what their service and support is like.
Make sure you don’t choose on price alone and that you consider the ROI
When selecting your accountant, be careful not to just focus on price.
Of course it’s important, but what’s more important is how much an accountant can help increase your income or save you on tax. Your focus should be on your return on investment, not just the cost.
Often, cheaper fees just mean the accountant spends less time working on your file. That means they’re getting the basics done and don’t have time to focus on the areas that could make the biggest difference, like implementing tax minimisation strategies.
When the accountant provides a quote for your services. make sure you go through it line by line and understand how each service will help you. Then you can make a decision about whether the service is worth the investment.
I hope you found this useful. If you’d like to find out more about how we could support you with your accounting, then we have two ways to help you out.
- You can download our free 28-point checklist that shows you everything you should be doing to stay compliant, minimise tax, protect your assets and manage your finances –click here
- You can Book your 15-minute discovery session call to find out IF and HOW we can help you and then, if relevant, we’ll book your complimentary tax review – click here