By Gary N. Cooper, CPA
Building a solid foundation for your business accounting system is a primary key to success, but as a small business owner you have more important things to do than to keep your own books. If you’ve decided the financial health of your business can benefit from up-to-date accounting, regular financial review and planning for the future, you are ready to hire an accounting specialist.
After determining to hire an accountant, consider the different qualification levels and what services your business requires from an accounting practioner.
A bookkeeper, responsible for day-to-day tasks such as recording financial transactions, entering data and reconciling bank statements, might be just what your business needs. You can outsource bookkeeping tasks for just a few hours each week which will afford you more time to focus on growing your business.
For more involved business needs, a general accountant is skilled in processing payroll, managing financial records and tax returns and setting up accounts payable/receivable. Trained to interpret financial data, accountants generally have college degrees and charge higher fees than a bookkeeper.
However, when it comes to strategic business planning and financial consulting, you should hire a certified public accountant (CPA), the only licensed qualification in accounting. While experienced in all aspects of accounting, a CPA can provide a variety of business services to impact bottom line results such as determining which entity structure is best for your business strategy, representation during an IRS audit, cash flow management and more.
No matter what level of outside accounting help you seek, small business owners can’t afford to make mistakes when it comes to accounting practices. When interviewing a firm or individual who will have access to sensitive financial documents, consider the following questions:
· What services do you offer beyond traditional reporting and “number crunching?”
· How long have you been in practice?
· How many clients to you have? What is your client retention rate?
· What software do you use?
· Are you a member of any professional associations?
· How do you bill for your services?
In addition to asking the right questions, one of the best ways to find the ideal accountant for your business is to source professional accounting associations and small business networking groups in your area. Or, ask your banker, lawyer, or investment advisor for recommendations. Performing adequate due diligence and asking the right questions will leave you feeling confident about selecting the appropriate accounting professional for your business needs.
About the Author:
Based in Houston, Texas and with more than 35 years of accounting experience, Gary N. Cooper, CPA, president/CEO of Cooper CPA Group, PC, established his full-service accounting and consulting firm in 2004 and serves individuals and mid-market companies in a broad range of industries including medical, retail, commercial, hospitality and manufacturing. www.CooperCPAGroup.com