Every business has accounting needs. There are financial standards, valuations, and tax concerns to keep up with and work through. There are also financial strategies to compile and forecasting that must take place. Plus, there's an enormous amount of work that goes into daily cash reconciliations, tax prep, reporting, collections, and putting together financial statements to attain financing or prepare to sell your business.
Armed with bookkeeping and tax software, some owners feel confident taking on this work alone. But because of the breadth of knowledge that’s required—and the time these tasks consume—you might prefer to work with small business accountants who can take on the bulk of your accounting duties.
Can I afford a small business accountant?
Accounting services are a cost you must factor in, but you don’t need to hire a full-time employee to fill this role. Lots of owners choose to work with a professional accounting service to take on their financial tasks.
Outsourced small business accountants often charge between $100-$300 per hour. The cost may seem high, but great accountants can be worth every penny. The time they spend on your business's financials is time you can use for equally important tasks. These include developing your strategy, working with your clients, or handling the day-to-day operations.
Depending on your business’s needs, you might work with your small business accountant for a few hours each month or the equivalent of several working days. With whichever option you choose, an accounting service can be a much more affordable than bringing a full-time, experienced accountant on staff.
There are ways to lower your accounting spend without sacrificing the quality of service you receive. For instance, you could contract with a bookkeeper (whose rates tend to be much lower than an accountant's) for certain financial tasks. Or, you might choose to retain some of the accounting work for yourself and work with a fractional chief financial officer (CFO) who can help you with forecasting, financial risk mitigation, and strategic accounting issues.
|Wondering if you really need to hire a small business accountant? If you don’t have a background in accounting, can't devote the time to learning accounting standards and practices, or can't keep up with changes to regulations and tax policy, it's a smart move to hire a pro who can help you with your everyday accounting tasks.|
How can I find small business accountants?
Referrals are a great way to find small business accountants, but you may already know of an accountant by reputation alone. If so, reach out and learn more about the services they offer.
Need some help finding an accountant? Check out some of our favorite firms:
Many business owners also love these bookkeeping services:
GrowthForce is another great resource for bookkeeping, accounting, and controller services:
A couple of the firms we've mentioned also offer outsourced CFO services. Check them out here:
Which qualifications should I look for?
When it comes to full-service accountants, you may want one who is a certified public accountant (CPA). This is an industry-standard verification of a person's knowledge and expertise in the field of public accounting. Try to find small business accountants in your area who have this designation and experience handling small businesses’ financial needs.
If you plan to work with a bookkeeper, look for one with the certified bookkeeper (CB) or certified public bookkeeper (CPB) designation. Both of these confirm a person's knowledge in bookkeeping (verified through testing and demonstrated experience).
Like accountants, you should expect a fractional CFO to be a certified public accountant or hold a certified management accountant (CMA) designation. The CMA is a globally recognized credential that confirms a pro's expertise in planning and analysis, accounting technologies, performance management, and risk management.
Before retaining an accountant’s services, speak with small business accountants from several firms to learn about their experience, capabilities, style of communication, and fee structure. Here are some questions you can ask to home in on the best candidates:
How many small business customers do you support?
Can I talk to some of your customers about their experiences?
How can you help my business handle its day-to-day challenges and plan for future growth?
Can you assist me with forecasting, tax concerns, or valuations of my business?
What are the qualifications of the person who would handle my requests?
How long does it take to complete a small business evaluation?
How often will you communicate with me?
Do you have connections to valuation specialists, attorneys, or other experts who might help me with specific challenges?
Do you charge per hour or by project?
Can you provide me with a written estimate of your costs?
How do I move forward with a small business accountant?
Use each accountant’s responses to assess their skills and qualifications. 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 each accountant to make an informed choice.
Some small business 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 these items:
- The services you require
- How long you’ll need assistance
- The fees you’ll pay upfront, throughout the process, and after completing a service
With the right small business accountant in place, you can shift your focus to finding other key members of your team, including an attorney. You can start connecting with tax, employment, and other attorneys through the search tool at the bottom of this page.
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