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Recently, a participant in one of the online forums that I like to ‘attend’ asked “What should I look for when I choose my next accountant?”
As a QuickBooks ProAdvisor who’s worked with many different clients within the construction, manufacturing, and various other industries (and ‘in the wake’ of other accountants), I’ve learned that many business owners don’t really know what they SHOULD have asked before they hired some of their previous accountants. So that forum participant asked a very intelligent question!
So, if you’ve ever asked yourself the same question – I’d like to provide the following insights:
Locating an accounting service provider that you will be happy with over a number of years is all about:
- Establishing a clear picture of what you really want
- Clarifying and discussing your expectations with a potential accountant up front (e.g., what you’re looking for and how you like to do business)
- Continuing the search until you find a good match!
How to Choose a QuickBooks ProAdvisor
So here’s a list of 13 questions that you may want to start with:
1. Accounting Focus: “What kind of accounting work do you do?” Are you:
- A CPA who can do audits and/or taxes?
- An Enrolled Agent? (IRS certified primarily to do taxes?)
- An accountant with a software specialty (e.g., “Are you a QuickBooks ProAdvisor”?)
- An accountant who likes to train, support, and work with you or your in-house accounting staff?
- Someone who primarily performs bookkeeping services?
- Someone who will double-check and clean up the work we do before submitting it to a tax preparer?
Note: The accounting field has many variations and specialties, so you don’t have to limit yourself to just ONE accountant. For example, you may decide to utilize one person for taxes, and another for software/industry accounting training.
2. Qualifications & Certifications:
- What are yours?
- Do they line up with my needs?
Education and certifications obviously don’t guarantee expertise. However, they do indicate that the individual has (at the very least) spent the time to read about, study for, and pass an exam in the areas in which they are certified. Ask about what these degrees and certifications represent in terms of education, and testing requirements.
3. Industry Background:
- Do you have a specialization in my industry?
- If so, how long have you worked in my industry, and what percentage of your clients are in my industry?
4. Software (e.g., QuickBooks, Enterprise, or other software):
- Do you have a specialization (or certifications) in my software?
- How many years of experience do you have with the software?
- Will you require me to upgrade my software to current levels?
- How long have you been doing this type of work?
- Once a year for tax work?
- Business coaching or controllership services?
- Ongoing support?
7. Your “accounting style”:
- Are you primarily a “big-picture” or a “detail-oriented” accountant?
8. Who will we actually be working with?
- Will I be working directly with you, or will you be delegating most of the actual work to a staff member in your firm?
- If a staff member: Can I meet them to see if we have a good ‘fit’?
- How frequently will I experience staff-to-staff changeover?
9. Technology expertise:
- Are you up-to-speed from a technology perspective?
Some accountants aren’t technologically inclined, so you should look for a good match.
10. Where is work performed?
- Do you come to my office, do we need to go to your office, or can we work with you using the phone and Internet?
- How do you charge? (By the hour, tenth hour, fixed price package?)
- Terms? (Invoice or pay-as-you-go?)
- Types of payment that you accept? (e.g., Check, eCheck, Credit Card[s]?)
12. For tax preparers:
- Will you perform a pre-year-end tax planning service with us?
- After we submit our information to you, how long does it usually take to get our returns prepared?
- Will you review the results with us?
- Will you help us get our QuickBooks results to agree with your final numbers?
13. Resolving day-to-day accounting issues & response time:
- How do you handle questions that may come up as we do our day-to-day accounting? (e.g., E-mail, phone, internet connection?)
- How long does it typically take to hear back if we place a call to you or your office? (e.g., Do you have a “return calls within x hours” policy?)
AFTER you locate someone that you believe you will be happy with, it’s also extremely important to provide truthful feedback as you work together.
Additional Advice on Selecting Your QuickBooks ProAdvisor
If there’s something that you don’t like, let them know so they can fix it – and it’s equally important to let them know when you’re happy with them. As a business owner yourself, you’d likely agree that everyone who truly cares about providing quality, professional service really appreciates hearing ideas re: how they can improve their service. AND if they are making you happy, it makes all of the difference in the world to hear that you appreciate their efforts…
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“Quick to respond and will work around your schedule within reason. Diane was great for both cleaning up accounting errors/miscategorization of accounts in my file. She is also skilled with setting up QuickBooks to optimize reporting for your specific company and industry. Overall, it has been a pleasure working with Diane and her staff.”