Many business owners realize the need for financial planners or accountants relatively late into the business’s life. This is more apparent in smaller businesses, where the payroll is limited to a few employees and the owner is generally in charge of handling finances.
However, the need for accountants becomes quite obvious when there’s significant paperwork to deal with, and financial activities to take care of on a regular basis. Thus, choosing the right accountant becomes important, as they can help you file taxes, become financial advisers, compile financial statements and keep the company’s ‘books’.
So how exactly do you find the right financial planners or accountants for your business? Not every person with a finance/accounting degree will be the same. Every accountant has different specialties, areas of expertise and qualifications. Choosing an accountant should not be taken lightly.
If you’re searching for financial planners or accountants in Melbourne, take into account (no pun intended) the following before making the final decision.
Before you start your search, it’s important to narrow down your list of requirements for the work you want done. What does your company truly need? Do you need help with your taxes? Do you want someone to maintain your company’s financial books? This might need some research on your part, but this is a necessary step.
Don’t think about these things after you’ve hired an accountant. That’s a common mistake that can easily be avoided by a bit of due diligence.
Once you know exactly the work you want done, it’s time to start the search for accountants or financial planners. Most business owners will gravitate towards local accountants, or look for references through their network. For businesses that are on a tight budget, there are affordable online services available as well.
Of course, you might be more comfortable working with someone who’s situated within a small distance from you. If you’re looking for online accounting services, be prepared to communicate effectively online, and even within different time zones. In any case, shortlist a small number of candidates that fit your requirements.
Start contacting the candidates on your shortlist, and pay attention to the way they communicate. Some accountants will try to be smart, impress and even intimidate you by using a lot of technical jargon that’s impossible to comprehend if you’re not a PhD in finance. Stay grounded, and no matter how impressive the accountant sounds, remember that you’re the one in the driving seat. If they make the work sound more complicated than it actually is, move on to the next candidate.
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Important Questions to Ask Your Accountant
However, if the candidate communicates well and in a simple language, it’s time to get serious. Do a little homework and search online for reviews and testimonials. If it’s someone you found through your personal network, this becomes much easier.
Once you’re sure the accountant isn’t trying to bamboozle you, set up an appointment and be prepared with a set of questions. Here are some obligatory questions that any respectable account shouldn’t have problems answering:
- Types of businesses they’ve worked with
Your accountant might have years of experience, but if they haven’t worked with a business similar to yours, they’re going to need some time to get up to speed. Of course that’s expected with any new hire, but you don’t want an accountant that’s absolutely clueless. For example, if your business is an LLC, you want an accountant who has experience working with LLCs.
- Industry experience
Every industry has its own set of financial considerations, which your accountant should be fully familiar with. For example, for IT businesses there might be certain tax exemptions the business can benefit from. This is why it’s important to choose a certified accountant who is fully familiar with your industry and its unique issues and needs.
Before choosing an accountant or financial planner, it’s important to ask them if they’ll be directly available to you. The last thing you want is to be juggled by a team of people, each of whom asks you the same questions before putting you in touch with your point of contact. Ideally, you’ll want an accountant who’s a simple phone call away from answering your questions.
- If you’re not available to work, who’ll look after me?
This is an important question to ask, since you can’t expect your accountant to always be available. They’re human beings too, which means they can get sick or take vacations. Smartphones have made this concern less relevant today, but it should still be a concern.
Ask your candidate who’ll look after you, and answer your questions in case they’re not available. This can be a big issue if your client works as an independent financial advisor in Melbourne. In such cases, who’ll be covering for your candidate when they’re away? And by covering we don’t mean just answering your calls and saying “Sorry, he’ll be back next week”.
You need to ensure that you’ll be in good hands if your candidate is away. Ideally, the person covering for them should be just as good, and should be fully available to handle your questions and your company’s finances just as your candidate would.
Don’t entrust your company’s finances to just one person – it’s a ticking time bomb that you’ve planted yourself.
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The Issue With Client References
It’s standard practice to look at client references when choosing a service provider, but it’s more complicated than that when working with financial advisers. To start with, if your candidate presents references (and names their clients), this is probably a red flag. They’ll never present clients who’re displeased with their services and more importantly, confidentiality is pretty important in the finance industry.
If your candidate is so comfortable sharing their client list, then just imagine how they’ll handle your privacy.