As a small business it’s important to keep a close eye on money – at the most basic level you need to know what’s coming in, what you’re paying out to suppliers and staff, and what’s left over as profit. But that is just the start.
To make your business a success you want to be able to have a good handle on whether you have enough money to invest in more staff, additional machinery, new product research and development, business development activities… the list goes on. The best, and most efficient, way to do this is to hire an accountant.
Now, as a small business we know that money, and time, are limited. Making a small investment in an accounting firm will free up all of your time for the business and the value they can add by managing all your tax returns, helping with business planning, and organising any payroll, pensions, and other employee-related matters can be hard to put a price on.
But how do you go about finding the right accounting firm for your business? Here are our top tips on what to look for:
Ask around. Friends, family, other local small business owners. Look for someone with small business experience as they will be better placed to understand the challenges and opportunities you face, as well as deal with the level of work that you are likely to have for them. If they already operate within your industry then that is even better as they will have experience of the pros and cons of operating within that.
Ideally, you want to get an accountant on board at the time of setting up your business. This way they can best advise on the most appropriate set-up for you, help with HMRC and Companies House, if applicable, and get your internal systems up and running from the get-go. However, that isn’t always possible, or you may be looking to change accountants, in which case you will have a list of services that you know you need so you can go into discussions with potential firms armed with a starting list.
There are a number of accountancy qualifications out there so you want to know that your adviser is suitably qualified. You should also check that they are a member of a professional body such as ICAEW for chartered accountants or ACCA for certified accountants.
Ask about the services that your prospective accountant offers. While you may not need all of them straight away, you probably will as your business develops and grows. Ask about standard tax returns – both company and self-assessments – filing documents on your behalf with Companies House, payroll, pension services, independent financial advisory services, etc. You should also check that they are moving with the times and have embraced new technology, including cloud-based accounting packages, such as Sage.
Meet a few
Don’t go for the first accountant you find. Shortlist a few from recommendations and some research to find others operating in your industry as well. Have a chat with them, get a feel for how they respond to your needs. You’re looking for someone you can work closely and build a good relationship with, so trust your gut as well as your checklist.
Have this discussion early on. You need to know what they charge and how. Is it a monthly or an annual fee? Is there an option to choose the level of service that best suits your needs?
Invest the time to find the right accountant for your business now, and you won’t regret it.