The financial health of your business is critical if you want to grow. The right accountant on your team helps you in many ways. Typical entrepreneurs go into business to provide services matching their expertise and passions. Frequently, finance and accounting are not the owner’s strong suit.
The right accountant on your team frees you to focus on what you do best, running the business and providing top service to your clients. Accountants do much more than file tax returns.
If you are starting a business, the right accountant will help you make important start-up decisions (such as the proper corporate structure). For examples, see our description of accounting services for business startups.
If you want to purchase another business, the right accountant can evaluate the financial strength of the company you want to acquire.
If you are a growing company, the right accountant can help you properly plan for growth and discuss options for financing that growth.
Do you need an in-house accountant or outside accounting firm?
When first starting a business, most entrepreneurs wear many hats. New business owners often purchase a software program and handle the accounting and taxes themselves.
After their businesses grow, owners face an important decision: Should they hire an in-house accountant or engage an accounting firm?
The right decision for you depends on the needs of your business.
If the company is relatively small:
- an in-house accountant may be too expensive
- the company may need a range of services that one individual cannot provide, and
- the company may not need high-level accounting expertise every day
For these reasons, it’s often best for a small business to engage an outside accounting firm.
If the company is large with many complex financial transactions, the business typically needs an in-house accountant.
Outside accountants can help a larger company when it needs special expertise or to relieve an over-extended in-house staff.
For example, a larger company can use an outside accounting firm to:
- Handle the company’s year-end taxes.
- Prepare the company’s financial records for the company’s auditors. An auditing firm cannot also handle a company’s audit preparation. For more information, see our page on audit preparation services.
- Perform special one-off tasks (such as forensic analysis for an acquisition).
How to select the right firm for your needs
If you decide to hire an outside accounting firm, your next step is to define your selection criteria. If you need advice on taxes, you should engage a firm of certified public accountants (CPAs).
In addition to seeking accountants with the proper certification, you may also want to consider:
Industry Expertise: Has the accounting team worked with companies in your industry or a related industry. For example, if your firm does a lot of work for the Federal Government, the accounting team should understand accounting requirements for government contractors.
Size: While large national firms may be well-known, they may not be the best fit for a smaller company. Many large accounting firms assign junior accounting staff to smaller clients. With a smaller accounting firm, a partner or more experienced accountant may work with you. Make sure you know which of the firm’s accountants will handle your account.
Complexity: What type of advice/service do you want from the accounting firm? Do you want only end-of-year taxes and financial statement preparation? Or do you need help with financial planning, retirement planning, business acquisition consultation, etc. Make sure the accounting firm you engage can provide the service you need.