Picking the right Chartered Accountant is a vital business decision, so you’ll need to arm yourself with the right assessment questions.
Choosing the right chartered accountant is one of the most critical decisions an organization has to make. A good one can save you time and help your business grow; a bad one could cost you much needed money. Yet with thousands to choose from, it can be a daunting task to pick. So when it comes to selecting and working with an accountant, what are the questions every organization should ask so as to make the most informed choice?
Why should I hire you?
Hiring a Chartered Accountant can be “even more critical" than hiring a member of staff.
“If you get the wrong person, you can miss out on things you should know, and that can be very costly.”
The key thing to consider during the hiring process is how the Chartered Accountant will add financial value to your organization. “Look for someone who can act as a business partner. You want them to demonstrate the skills and knowledge of supporting a business.”
Therefore, take your time with research. We recommend interviewing at least three candidates before making a final choice. There are a few fundamental questions that must be asked during these meetings.
“First, what are their qualifications, and are they regulated by a professional body?” says like an ICAI member, for instance, will have professional indemnity insurance, meaning any losses to your business due to incorrect advice will be covered.”
Also, we recommend talking to others in your sector so that you can get a second opinion about their reputation. We recommend asking the Chartered Accountant to share testimonials from customers, or better yet, if you can meet a current client.
“Having the right questions ready boils down to doing your homework.
“Make sure you don’t go into that first meeting cold, otherwise you’re only expecting to get their PR pitch.”
Could my money work harder?
Most people believe a Chartered Accountant will just look after annual accounts and tax compliance. However, “that’s only a small portion of what a competent Chartered Accountant can — and should be doing for you.”
“They can help you raise capital by finding grants, government funding schemes, and tax relief schemes,” . “They can help you sell shares in the business, crowdfund or find angel investment. People tend to say, can you balance my books? What you should be asking is: what am I entitled to that I don’t know about?”
The money a Chartered Accountant can save your business must naturally be weighed against the costs of employing them. The question we often hear – “why should I pay you to do this?” – is therefore a valid one. “Start-ups are cost conscious, so ask what you can do yourself. For example, I would point people toward online bookkeeping software such as Quickbooks and Zohobooks.”
We say there’s “no need to be polite” when it comes to talking about accountants. “You must ask, how much will this cost?" Ask when you will bill me as well. Some charge annually, monthly or hourly. Talk money up front, otherwise you’ll be in for a shock once you’ve committed.”
Are we the right match?
The right Chartered Accountant will have more than just prestige – it’s imperative they understand business needs and are able to offer relevant insight.
“Small businesses can be naïve about their needs. According to research recently found 60% of start-up directors are running a company for the first time. “That’s why it’s so helpful to ask a Chartered Accountant if they work with small businesses or have knowledge of your industry. You should also partner with a firm that’s a similar size to you. That way, they understand your challenges, and their prices are likely to suit you.”
“Ask what other companies they have advised in your industry." “Similarly, have they advised companies at the same life-stage as you? What services could they imagine providing to you over time? Here, you’re testing for their breadth of expertise and ability to think of your business' evolving needs.”
Chartered Accountants offer differing levels of engagement, so make sure to establish how often you’ll be in contact, and whether you’ll correspond by email or telephone. Less contact often means less costs, but it can make it difficult to ask questions or spot issues.
At a larger firm, the person you initially meet or speak to on the phone might not be the person actually handling the work. Ask who will be dealing with your account on a daily basis. You’ve got to be satisfied that you’re not being palmed off to an office junior; that the person in charge of your case understands your business.”
Are things working out?
Once you’ve chosen a Chartered Accountant, measuring their performance is an ongoing process.
A helpful way to do this is to hold monthly meetings where you can ask for their view on the business and its finances. “If their view is close to yours, that’s a positive sign." But you do still want to see a degree of challenge and initiative - if you only hear what you expect, that’s not a healthy sign.”
Assessing performance is also about watching whether your accountant asks the right questions of you, too. A competent accountant will be proactive by calling you at least every three months to see how the business is progressing. “They should be asking if you have any issues, questions or concerns to discuss. If they’re not doing that then they’re not really adding much value.”
Believes a healthy relationship is defined by ongoing conversation and information sharing, which ultimately leads to trust. “The way to get the most out of your Chartered Accountant is to engage in dialogue." “Ask questions, but also be forthcoming. The more you share about your business, the more you will get out of the relationship."
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