Help! I Need an Accountant

Small business owners have many tasks to perform in running their businesses.  They take orders, prepare the shop, order inventory, hire employees and perform bookkeeping.  These varied tasks can become overwhelming especially when you think that you must prepare the accounting and balance the books.  Who has the time?

But you needn’t feel this way.  Consider hiring an accountant.  But what should you look for in an accountant?  The first thing you should do is to determine what you need in an accountant and what he can do for you.  What are the skills and knowledge that you require of an accountant?  Is he a CPA? Where is your business now, is it a start-up or a small company with a small staff?  Will you need financing soon, or are you thinking of an initial public offering of stock? The answers to these questions will help you determine what you need in an accountant.

There are so many accountants with specialty services these days it can be confusing to select someone. And then there are those who are your basic accountants.  Accountants typically provide a wide range of tax services, from filing tax returns to tax planning to examining the tax implications of transactions.  Some even offer assurance services, including audits, reviews and compilations.  Some accounting firms recently have expanded to provide business advisory services, including succession planning, business valuation and forensic services, technology consulting, human resources consulting and investment advice.

If all you need is someone to prepare your quarterly financial reports and year-end financials and income tax reports, you would need an accountant from a small firm.  However, you need to determine whether the accountant is appropriate for you.  You should discuss with him his qualifications and experience. You must ask him about his clients and how large they are. Where would you fit in the client roster in terms of size?   Will he pay attention to you or would you be a low priority to the professional?  An accountant with small business practice would be a better fit for you if you are a small business and expect to remain as you are for several years.  Is the accountant familiar with your industry?  If so, he would then be able to present your financials properly and be able to pinpoint troublesome areas in your business so that you can make improvements. He can help you improve your bottom line.

You need to discuss with the accountant how he will handle your account and how much he will be charging for his services.  How many face-to-face meetings will you need with him for him to understand your business and how he wants to receive your information in paper or loaded onto a disc which syncs with his software.

But the best way to select an accountant is to ask your friends and business contacts who they would recommend.  Make sure that you interview several accountants so that you will have the best fit to meet your business needs.

Need Help in Your Business?

For many small businesses taking on full-time employees is prohibitive.  They do not have the cash flow to employ them.  But, owners of small businesses may need help with projects that they cannot do themselves or do not have the employees with the requisite skills. They need help in designing a website, for example, or have someone go out and investigate museums for designs of a certain era, or create a marketing brochure for their clients.  Whatever it may be,  engaging freelancers may be the answer.

Freelancers are not full-timers and aren’t direct reports.  A company must rely on their expertise and word that they will get the job done in the time that is specified.  A company cannot control or direct their work since they are 1099 independent contractors.  Therefore, a company must be careful in hiring the right people.  Ask for references and check on them.  A desirable freelancer is one who is experienced and has done a large number of jobs. You might test them on a small job first to see how they do.

Here are some pointers to remember when considering a freelancer:

  • Be very specific on the scope of the job and ask them if they have everything they need before they begin the project.
  • Establish checkpoints along the way, but do not dictate how they perform the work or the hours they work.  If you do, it becomes an employee/employer relationship and violates the definition of an independent contractor.
  • Freelancers should also have a written, signed independent contractor’s agreement laying out the relationship.  If you want ownership of any of the work or material the freelancer created that must be spelled out in the agreement that you are buying the rights and own all the rights.

A good freelancer can be a great help to you, but they come with a price so pay them promptly.  They will hold you in good regard.