Article from Evening Standard, Business connections (www.es-bc.co.uk)
How to… pick an accountant
By Emmanouil Schizas -14 May 2012
Selecting an accountant can seem a daunting task, but if you choose correctly, they can be an extremely valuable asset to your business. A good accountant will not only handle your financial and operational data but will offer professional business advice on a number of other topics too, leaving you free to focus on maintaining and expanding your business.
1) Big is not always better
Smaller accountancy firms can often be better suited to smaller businesses. An accountant running a small practice is a business owner just like you; they know what it’s like. Would you prefer to work with one person on a day-to-day basis (typical of smaller firms) or would you feel more comfortable knowing there is a larger team dedicated to your account?
2) Adding value beyond book-keeping
Whilst their primary task is ensuring all your accounts are in order, it is their ability to deliver specialised expertise and resources that will guarantee a successful business relationship. Try to gauge how strong their network of contacts is, and whether they are able to provide services above and beyond your book-keeping needs.
3) Professional qualifications
Although they are relatively rare, you may come across people offering “accounting services” who are not qualified. Unqualified accountants are unlikely to carry liability insurance and any apparent fee savings may turn out to be costly in the long run. A professional qualification also means your accountant will be required to learn continuously – and can be disciplined by their professional body if they fail to act professionally towards you. Look for a qualification from a professional body such as ACCA, ICAEW or CIMA.
4) Getting on with each other
It is of utmost importance that you trust the person who will be handling your finances and feel comfortable to ask them any questions you may have. Most accountants will offer a free initial consultation, allowing you to assess how successful your working relationship might be. A breakdown in communications between you and your accountant may lead to financial confusion, hassle, and ultimately expense, to you and your business.
5) Clients recommendations
Don’t underestimate the value of speaking to other businesses or acquaintances about their experiences working with an accountant. It may also prove valuable to talk to non-clients to find out their perception of the organisation.
Emmanouil Schizas is an SME specialist at the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants