Many business startups think accounting is easy, and that they can do it themselves.  It’s not until things go wrong that they realise that having an accountant is not a luxury, but essential when running a business.  Not only do we keep you within the law, and ensure your filings are made on time, but we can support you in many other ways.  The businesses who are really successful are the ones who invest in their finance function so they always know where they are.

So how do you choose who you work with?  Where on earth do you start?  Personal recommendations are a great place, but what works for one business may not for another. It’s a daunting task to start the search, there is so much choice available.

We’ve put together a few things you should bear in mind when choosing who you are going to be working with.

1) Qualifications/Registrations/Insurance

Anyone can hold themselves out to be an accountant.  Unlike with solicitors, there’s no legal protection for the profession. Having said that, there are some people who are really great accountants, with extensive experience, but without any qualifications; and as long as they are transparent about this and they fit with you in every other way, don’t necessarily discount them. You also need to ask if they are registered with a professional body.  When you need an official signature, for example on a mortgage certificate, your accountant needs to be registered in order to do this.  Lastly, please check they have Professional Indemnity insurance in place.  Things rarely go wrong but when they do, you need to make sure there is someone to pick up the pieces.

2) Location

Is your accountant being local to you of high importance, or are you happy with video calls for your meetings?  In this digital age,there is no longer any need to drop off bags of receipts and files, so consider if  your accountant needs to be local.  If your perfect accountant is 200 miles away, what effect will this have on your relationship with them?

3) Speed and responsiveness

How quickly do you need your accountants to respond to your requests?  When do you expect to receive your accounts?  These are things you need to think about as, for example, if you want to know how much tax you will pay well in advance of the due date but your accountant doesn’t provide this information until a week before, that’s not helpful.  If you have investors, they may expect to see your management accounts by a certain day in the month, so make sure your accountant is going to be able to fulfil any timing expectations.

4) Size, services offered, and suitability

If you’re planning on fast growth, you need an accountant who can accommodate that growth and support you along the way.  If the firm you choose doesn’t provide all the services you are likely to need, do they have partners they work closely with who do provide those services? Do they have experience with your type of business?   If you’re growing an international e-commerce business, don’t choose an accountant who specialises in the construction trade; and vice-versa.

5) Personality

Your accountant is someone you will be working closely with, so it’s important that you can like and trust them.  If you’re to be allocated a client manager, you also need to like and trust them.  Make sure your new accountant is working on your side to help your business thrive, and not just there to hand you over a set of accounts and tell you your tax liabilities

6) Price

This is often the first question asked but really it should be the last.

When you decide to buy a car, do you go out to find the cheapest car available?  Or do you want a car that is reliable, that will get you to where you want to go?  You might want a fast sports car, a reliable workhorse, or a fancy top of the range luxury car; but you will have already decided what best suits your needs before you then go and look at the price.

It’s the same with your accountant.  You need to consider the above points first, as if you get a great price but terrible accounts and service, with an accountant who doesn’t understand or care about your business, it will cost you more in the long run.  Of course everyone wants a bargain, but like you, your accountant is in business to make a profit, and like a car, if you go for the cheapest possible, you’ll probably end up with an unreliable service, late and incorrect submissions, and fines and penalties.  The peace of mind that comes from having a good accountant who’s on your side is priceless.

Transparency of pricing is key. Make sure you know what the quote includes, and what it doesn’t. Will you be receiving ad-hoc unexpected invoices or will your accountant tell you if you’re incurring additional fees beforehand?