When I started my business, one of the first people I missed was the corporate accountant who worked at my old job. No more handing off receipts to get reimbursed for expenses or telling someone to create an invoice. I suddenly had to figure out what the best format for my business should be (corporation or LLC), how to pay employee taxes, and what expenses are deductible. All that was clearly not in my wheelhouse—I’m a right-brainer with great creative skills, but clueless when it comes to doing the books. But even if you’re more math-minded than I am, there are several reasons a good accountant can help your business:
You’re probably already using an accounting program like QuickBooks or Sage to create invoices and track sales and expenses. A good accountant can show you how to use those programs to do more for your business than just the basics. He or she can show you how to look for warning signs, manage late payments and run reports to show you who your best and worst customers are.
Do you really have time to have to keep up with new tax laws, the ins and outs of business structures and shareholder decisions? Of course not. That’s what an accountant is for.
If you ever want to retire or pass the business on to your family, a good accountant can advise you on the best way to make that happen.
So how do you find a good accountant? Start by getting recommendations from other small business owners in your area and/or industry. It’s best if the accountant is familiar with your specific business issues. Local review sites like Yelp and Local.com can help you search in your area.
When checking out prospective accountants, find out what kinds of services are offered such as bookkeeping, management consulting, investment management and estate planning. Will the accountant also help you with small business loan documents or managing employee retirement plans?
Finally, make sure you understand how you’ll be billed. Many accountants charge by the hour, but you might be able to pay a monthly retainer fee so you can ask questions anytime you need help.