Choosing an accounting or CPA firm to handle your business’ finances is a lot easier said than done. First of all, there are a large number of firms out there, and second, you’re looking for someone you can trust with a very sensitive aspect of your business’ finances. That’s a lot of trust to put in a firm or accountant you’ve just met. So, how do you decide which firm will be a good fit for you, and when to keep looking? Here are a couple things to keep in mind even before you start looking, and a few questions to ask once you have a few firms lined up:

Make sure you know what you need

Before you even start looking for a CPA firm, you need to figure out how much financial help your company really needs. Are you looking for someone who will just file your taxes each year, or are you looking or something more in-depth, like a financial audit, or a consultation with some financial advice? There are plenty of firms out there who are happy to file your taxes and not talk to you for the rest of the year, but if you want more help than that, know that there are also many CPA firms that offer extended services, whether you’re looking for some input on a large business purchase, or you’d like an audit done on your employee benefits plan.

Clarify how much support you want

Once you decide exactly what it is you need from a CPA firm, you’ll need to convey that to any of the firms you’re considering and interviewing with. The best way to figure out if a firm will be a good fit is to first tell them what you expect from them. Chances are, if you’re looking for a service they don’t provide, they’ll let you know, or they’ll figure out how to make it happen. From there, it’ll be easy to curate a shortlist of top candidates that you can talk to more seriously about hiring. Here are a few questions to ask of the firms on your shortlist:

Are they responsive and do they have time for you?

While this will likely come as no surprise to you, you want an accounting firm that actually answers your calls and emails. Your business’ finances deserve a quality response time, and if you’re in the middle of buying a major product or hiring another employee, you’ll want to know if you can afford it right away. Make sure you’re choosing an accounting firm that values communication, and will go the extra mile to make sure that they’re answering your questions and taking your calls.

It’s also good to make sure that the CPA firms you’re looking at actually have time for your company. Too often, firms take on more clients than they have the capacity for, and then things can begin to slip through the cracks as employees struggle to keep up the workload. If the firm already seems really busy, or mentions that they already have a ton of clients, then they might not be your best option.

Are they involved in the industry?

A great sign of a reputable accounting firm is their involvement with the rest of the CPA industry. Are the firms you’re looking at members of CPA groups or accounting societies? Are they involved with other industry professionals in a way that would expand their reach and increase their level of service to you? Many of these accounting groups and organizations require that their accounting members maintain a certain level of service and education, which makes them a great indication of a firm’s quality of service.

What’s their understanding of your industry?

Another great question to ask is if their firm has experience working in your industry. There are an unimaginable amount of areas that CPAs can certify in, and it helps to have an accountant who’s worked with your industry before. Most firms have a number of accountants on their team, so you’ll want to see if at least one of their team members has worked in your industry before, and has experience with the unique tax laws and requirements that govern your business.

How do they handle individual accounts?

It’s also a good idea to determine how a firm handles individual accounts. This tends to vary by firm size, as smaller firms will generally dedicate one CPA to each account, where larger firms might shuffle some clients to junior staff members to lighten their load. You’ll want to ask who your contact person will be, and if your account will be handled by one senior accountant, or multiple employees at the firm. This should give you a good idea of how much individual attention your company will get, and how much communication you can expect as a client with that accounting firm.

Check their reputation

Once you’ve narrowed down your short list to a few top contenders, be sure to check their reputation in the community. This is one reason to look at accountants in your area, as you’re more likely to know someone they’ve worked with in the past. If you’re looking at a firm that’s a bit outside your territory, then you should consider at least asking for a few references who can give you an idea of how the firm works, and what you can expect as far as service and effort goes.

Do you like them?

Finally, it’s important that you actually like the accountant or firm that your business is considering working with. This is the person who’s going to be in charge of your company’s finances after all, and if you’re choosing a quality firm, you’ll be talking to them quite a bit. It’s important that you can have a productive, professional relationship with the point person for your account, or you’re not going to get the most out of the firm. You have to be able to trust the person you’re handing over the finances to. So, if you’re struggling to choose between two firms, but you get along really well with one of the accountants, then that firm is probably your best choice.

Choosing a quality CPA firm that’s a great fit for your company isn’t always easy, but if you take the time to sit down with accountants and talk about their services, you’ll get a much better idea of how your business’ finances will be handled. If you have more questions about how an accounting firm can help grow your business, or if you’re looking for a quality CPA firm in West Michigan, then give the experts at Steensma Novotny PLC a call. We’re here to help.