Building and running a business means handling a variety of tasks and duties. Some of those duties you may enjoy and some you may not. Some of those duties you may be good at and some may frustrate you.
One task that many small-business owners continually tell me they neither enjoy nor feel competent at or even do on a regular basis is handling the accounting aspects of the business.
Typical comments by business owners are that they don’t understand what they are doing or don’t know how it helps. Therefore, the task just doesn’t rank high on the list of things they like to do and it gets pushed aside.
Having accurate and timely financial information is crucial. Knowing if you are making money and when you may need a cash infusion are crucial in both the short and long term. This information influences short term decisions, such as sale pricing, and long term, your marketing campaign investment.
So if you don’t enjoy doing these things, how can you get them done?
You can hire someone or find an outside source. Either way, you are talking about adding a person to your business team. And even if you do some financial work inside the business, you still may want or need someone to give you some added outside perspective.
So how do you find an accountant to be on your team? You do it just like you search for other team members: Look at your needs, examine who can meet those needs, interview the leading candidates and check referrals for each person.
First, you need to know what aspects or duties you or someone within your business will handle. Duties beyond that are things for which you want help. Of course, the more you can do internally, the lower your costs, but it’s a balance. Decide where your resources can best be spent.
The second step is the search for candidates. This can be scary for many business owners because accountants may use unfamiliar words and terms.
You can get a listing online or through the Yellow Pages. This also is a great time to use your professional network to see who others may recommend. Plus, it’s a reason to head to events you normally may not attend to ask whom others are using.
As you enter this phase, ask those other business owners how helpful their accountant is in explaining financial statements in terms they understand. Also ask the other business owners whether they specialize in a particular industry. If they primarily are working in construction and you are in retail, would their accountant be a good match for your business? Don’t necessarily rule this person out. But it provides more questions to ask the other business owners.
Plus don’t forget the standard questions you need to consider such as: Does the accountant respond to calls or contacts? Does he or she respond on a timely basis? Does the accountant get things done on time and when promised? And finally, does the business owners feel they are getting what they paid for?
Once you have some possible accountants identified, interview your leading candidates. Don’t hesitate to talk about your specific needs. Also, get a clear understanding of fees and costs. Find out what your dollars buy and what is extra.
Find someone you can see yourself building a long-term relationship.
Another thing to consider is whether you need this person to be in your community or the work can be handled from a distance. Both of these options have positives and negatives. Finding the best person for the job may be the key deciding factor.
Several business owners I know have commented that getting financial management help was the best decision they made. Only you can determine what it may be worth to you.
A business team can help you reach your goals. Your accountant is an important member of that team. Think hard about who you need. Then take action.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.