Green flags to look for in an accountant
‘Is your accountant ripping you off?’ ‘Is your bookkeeper screwing up your books?’ ‘Red flags that will get you audited.’ ‘Why the IRS will come after you.’ ‘Picking the wrong accountant could land you in jail.’ These types of headlines certainly grab attention!
It’s easy to focus on the negatives, potential problems, and risks in literally any area of your business (and life). Humans are wired to look out for and pay attention to potential threats.
This instinct is vital to survival when humans run into a hungry predator, like a tiger, in the wild. In modern times though, we’re not facing persistent threats of predatory animals. Well if you are, you may want to reconsider your life choices.
Our hypervigilance of threats can land us in trouble. It can lead to increased stress, anxiety, difficulty making decisions, and even avoidance of starting projects that will improve the business.
It feels like all gloom and doom when you only focus on the negative. We’re sometimes guilty of this too because after all, you should know the typical reasons people get audited so you can avoid it. Right? But, focusing on the positive is a powerful force to bring more positivity in your life. This isn’t just wishful thinking – it’s scientifically proven!*
If you’re searching for a new accountant or accounting firm, what exactly should you be looking for and evaluating? Without further ado, I give you green flags to look for in an accountant.
Your accountant doesn’t necessarily have to be a certified public accountant (CPA). But, find out what qualifications they have. What accounting degree and certification do they hold? Have they completed special training or accreditation to show their expertise in the software you use – like xero or quickbooks? How many years of accounting experience do they have?
They have relevant experience
Ask if the accountant has experience with clients in your industry. If you sell a very unique product, like handmade wooden animal carvings, you don’t have to find an accountant with experience in that specific niche. But an accounting firm with experience serving retail clients will be well-versed in tax laws, sales forecasting, etc. for a business like yours that manages inventory.
They’re recommended by a trusted contact
A referral from someone you know and trust is one of the best ways to help you choose a new accountant. While you still need to go through an interview and vetting process, a company recommended to you is a great place to start.
They’re highly rated
Online reviews remain a valuable tool for analyzing businesses. Granted, not all review platforms have equal footing. Platforms like Yelp seem to have a disproportionate number of negative reviews from unhappy customers, and a filtering system that ends up hiding some valid reviews. Facebook seems to have higher ratings from people who are already fans or followers of a business. Personally, I look at reviews on a few different platforms, including Google, to get a better picture of how customers feel about a business.
They’re growth-minded and care about your goals
Don’t settle for an accountant that JUST crunches the numbers and provides reporting. You – and your business – will benefit from an accountant interested in your goals and committed to helping you reach them. An accountant focused on your company’s growth and goals might highlight an upward trend in your account receivables, share tips to increase your cash flow, or work with you to improve forecasting, for example.
They seem like the best match for you
Interview several candidates before you decide. Do you marry the first person you ever date? Typically, no! You start out your dating life relatively immature, unaware of common pitfalls, and (at least in my experience) without great discernment. And while finding a new vendor or employee isn’t the same as dating, you often learn about your needs and what you are looking for in the process.
You need to find a good fit. Meeting people and asking questions along the way can help hone your decision-making skills. You may notice a quality about a business that you dislike, and it was something you never even considered before. Or you speak to a potential vendor who is very proactive in asking about your goals, and you realize that’s a really important quality for you. It may seem like common sense, but the accountant that seems like they’re a great match for you probably is. Go with your gut.
A few more things to consider:
- Does the accountant listen to you? Listening is essential to understanding and meeting your needs.
- What kind of vibe do you get about their integrity? If you ask them a couple simple questions about tax deductions and they have a “write-off everything” mentality, you’ll want to think twice before you move forward.
- For an individual accountant, do a background check.
- For an accounting agency, ask for (and speak to!) references of current clients.
Stay positive in your search for an accountant and look for green flags. These positive traits will increase your confidence in your accountant selection.
Our clients have cited some of the green flags above as the reason they first contacted us. And while I might be biased, the team here at Numberwise is pretty rad! If you’re interested in including us in your list of potential accountants, check out our ‘start here’ page to start the conversation.
*In the book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor references many scientific studies demonstrating that a positive focus improves your performance, increases your productivity, and even extends your life. Achor also shares a list of tips for actually being more positive (aka happy!).
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