A knowledgeable business accountant is a must for any small business acquisition—and for all the work that follows.
Here’s why: An accountant can help you make sense of your target company’s financials, tax returns, and valuations and spot the red flags you need to know before agreeing to a deal. An accountant can also help you finetune your financial strategy, make forecasts, and ensure that you have your taxation bases covered once you acquire your business.
Can I afford an accountant?
Accounting services are a cost that you must factor in.
Many high-quality business accountants charge between $100-$300 per hour, and while the cost may seem high, they can be worth every penny. The time they spend navigating the financial aspects of your purchase is time you can use for other important tasks, like developing your business plan, securing financing, or negotiating the terms of your deal. And, their knowledge of financials and taxation will be invaluable as you form assessments about the business.
How can I find one?
Many business owners turn to other pros they work with for a referral. Some also use online services to connect with accountants who are familiar with small business needs.
Are you interested in connecting with an accountant who has the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to navigate every part of your business acquisition? Check out some of our favorite firms here:
Which qualifications should I look for?
Many top-tier accountants are certified public accountants (CPAs). This designation is an industry-standard verification of an accountant’s knowledge and expertise in the field of public accounting. Try to find an accountant in your area who has this designation and a sufficient level of experience in handling small businesses’ financial needs.
Before retaining an accountant’s services, consider speaking with accountants from several firms to learn about the breadth of their experience, their capabilities, their style of communication, and their fee structure. To home in on the best accounting candidates, consider asking the following questions:
|How many customers have you helped through a small business acquisition?|
Can I talk to some of your customers about their experiences?
|How can you help me through my acquisition and later, after my transition to ownership?|
What are the qualifications of the person in your office who would handle my request?
|What is the standard turnaround time to complete a small business evaluation?|
How frequently will you communicate with me throughout the process?
|Do you have connections to valuation specialists, attorneys, or other experts who might help me with other parts of my acquisition?|
|Do you charge per hour or by project?|
Can you provide me with a written estimate of your costs?
How do I move forward?
Use each accountant’s responses to assess their skills and qualifications. Then, pair what you learn with online reviews, verification of licensure, a review of the practice’s website, and web searches to ensure you have enough information about your accountant candidates to make an informed decision.
Some accountants will allow you to negotiate their rates, so once you’ve made your selection, you may consider asking for a reduction in fees, especially if they are out of alignment with the rates other highly qualified accountants are charging. Then, write an engagement letter that spells out the services you require; the duration of time you’ll need assistance; and the fees you’ll pay upfront, throughout the process, and at the close of your acquisition.
Once you find an accountant, you can shift your focus to finding other key members of your acquisition team. Important pros here include an attorney and a valuation specialist. You can start connecting with these professionals through the search tool at the bottom of this page.
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