By Maria Young
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Some of the most important professional meetings in our lives are the ones we look forward to least: the dentist, the attorney, the tax professional. But imagine finding a professional service provider who feels like an integrated business partner. How could it change your experience? Could it help you feel empowered rather than intimidated? I don’t know how to give advice on finding other great professionals, but as a CPA I can share thoughts on how to find an accountant best suited for your needs and personality.
First, consider the size and scope of your business. When new or very small, it's hard to decide how to handle the accounting. Do it yourself? Hire an in-house bookkeeper? Outsource it? The best investment a small business can make is in a good bookkeeper. In the early stages, a solid bookkeeper can handle the day-to-day business. Then find a CPA to do your taxes and with whom you can consult on a quarterly basis. There's no widely accepted credential for bookkeepers, so you have to vet them rigorously to make sure you are getting someone worth his or her salt.
Finding a CPA is also a bit of a process, but at least there's a state-regulated license that allows you to feel a certain level of assurance about the individual’s skill set. That being said, you can count on bigger firms costing more than smaller firms, but bigger isn't always better. Ask around and talk to other people about their experiences with CPAs. In my opinion, technical skills are par for the course, but what really sets a good accountant apart from a mediocre one is communication skills. The individual you hire should be able to clearly tell the story behind the numbers. Does he or she explain concepts in a way that makes sense and feels approachable? Are they responsive?
Additionally, find someone who understands your circumstances. Are they interested in your business? Have they helped companies of a similar size and do they understand what growth looks like for a company like yours? How well does your prospective accountant understand your industry? The individual’s deep knowledge of your professional landscape will yield greater insight into your finances. When interviewing a CPA ask questions about how that person has helped companies like yours. Pose business questions and consider the answers offered. Ask the CPA to consider not only the financial advantage of a proposed course of action, but also the tax consequences or operational ramifications.
Hiring an accountant who can be a partner to your business can elevate your operation and empower you to achieve your goals. But finding the right fit is a two-fold effort that includes getting the right personality match and the right industry expertise. Always keep your eye out for the right fit, and when it comes along you’ll actually look forward to those financial conversations!
Maria Young is a CPA with Radix Accounting, which offers bookkeeping, payroll, contract controller services, and tax preparation for breweries.