As a small business you understand that you need to maintain accounting records and file taxes as required by various laws. However, something that small business owners ignore is that your accountant can and should do a lot more for your business than just being a technician who helps you file taxes.

Every growing business needs an inter-disciplinary approach to management; it needs to have a number of skill-sets putting their expertise together in order to leverage the business resources. This is accomplished through setting up a management team that comprises primarily of professionals in the fields of accounting & tax, law, banking, technology, and marketing. Each one of these is a long-term strategic partner working alongside you to ensure the success of your business.

Many entrepreneurs who launch their own businesses start out by wearing the bookkeeper’s hat and doing their own taxes, or use a buddy from school that does some accounting. However, there is more demanded of accountants as the business grows and wants to strengthen its financial function, improve its management reporting and position the company for growth.

So how do you go about finding a great accountant? Here are 5 tips:

  1. Find value-added partner:

The attitude of an accountant will decide how they will add financial value to your company. Some accounting firms can be too busy to give you the service you need, which means your business suffers, such as paying more tax than you need to. Look for someone who can act as a business partner, and who can help you raise capital by finding grants, government funding pots, and tax relief schemes, along with providing you with information when they come across an idea, concept, article, etc. that could be of interest or benefit to you. You want them to demonstrate the skills and knowledge of supporting your business.

  1. Determine your business needs:

Hiring an outside accountant or accounting firm on a consulting basis is a good first step for a growing business. The outside firm can often cost less than the salary and benefits of a full-time employee and, at the same time, you may be getting a higher level of advice from a CPA or a tax accountant, the latter of whom is usually a licensed CPA and specializes in tax law.

Most business owners want an accountant who has well-rounded knowledge to advise them on tax and financial planning, or even retirement planning. It is better to go with an accounting firm that services clients similar to your company. That way, they are able to understand your needs and challenges and offer relevant insight, and moreover, their prices are likely to suit you.

  1. Seek industry expertise:

It is important to find an accountant who specializes in your industry and can provide you with business/financial advice based on your industry type. Some accounting firms partner with networks of other firms and can turn to specialists to resolve certain issues if need be. For example, an accountant experienced in working with technology companies would provide you with advice on applying for R&D grants/incentives from the government.

  1. Get certified candidates:

Last but not the least, find a CPA and preferably no less.

A licensed Chartered Professional Accountant is required to achieve a certain degree of education and a certain amount of experience before getting the designations, and there are ethical rules that also have to be met. A non-certified accountant may be precisely what you require to handle your business’ financial statements and bookkeeping. However, when it comes to tax advice and return preparation, business owners may need to seek accountants who are certified and licensed.

  1. Check the reputation:

Remember, you want an accountant for a long-term relationship, so do your due diligence in selecting one. Find out if there have ever been any issues, complaints or disciplinary action taken against an accountant from references and professional associations before hiring them.

Choosing the right accounting firm is a milestone for a small business. Many companies wait too long before making this decision, resulting in sloppy and inaccurate reporting at a crucial time in the company’s growth. Take the time to find a good accountant or accounting firm; it could save your business a lot of time, effort and money!