Accounting services are not commodities … all accounting firms are not created equal. The right firm for someone else’s business or organization may not be the right firm for your entity. With thousands of accountants in the New York Metropolitan area, how do you know which is the right firm for you? In choosing an accounting firm, you should consider the following:
- How well do they know your industry? You want an accounting firm that knows your industry, speaks your language, asks the right questions. If you are a healthcare provider, your accountant should understand managed care, RBRVU’s, contractual allowances, etc. In the nonprofit world, they should know about A-133 audits and CFR’s. In manufacturing, they should understand cost accounting, inventory turnover, R&D/investment tax credits, and sales tax rules. If your accountant is not knowledgeable in your industry, how much of a resource are they really going to be for you?
- Is the firm you’re hiring going to be a business advisor or just a historian? Yes, much of accounting is compliance …. tax returns, financial statements, forms, etc. What separates a good accountant from a great accountant is the ability to think like a business advisor. You want to work with someone that is going to be your partner, provide proactive advice, help drive better results and improve your bottom-line, be able to make connections for you, and introduce you to ideas and concepts that will make you and your company more productive.
- What’s their reputation in the marketplace? A firm can be cheap, but remember, you often get what you pay for. Talk to your banker, your lawyers, your insurance broker, and other business associates to understand the reputation of the firm you are considering. Especially talk to anyone that will be relying on the work of the firm. If the quality is not there, it could impact your ability to get a line of credit or a bid bond. Check their references.
- How responsive is the firm? When you call or e-mail, how long does it take them to get back to you? Are they willing to share their cell phone numbers? If you have an emergency, are they reachable? You want a firm that cares about your business just as much as you do.
- Who will you be working with? On the sales call, you will meet the partners and managers, but once you start working with the firm, how much accessibility will you have to the higher level staff members. Many services performed by accounting firms is done by juniors and seniors. That is standard. Even so, you want to make sure that you have adequate access to the upper level people that can provide you real insight into helping you to grow your business.
- What are the fees? We understand that fees are important, but so is value. A cheap accountant is often much more expensive than a good one. A good accountant will provide you with ideas on how to improve your bottom line that should more than make up for their additional cost.
- Are they the right size? Pick an accounting firm that can handle your account appropriately. Larger firms are not necessarily geared to handle such things as payroll, sales tax, etc. and a small firm may not necessarily be able to handle foreign tax issues or controversy issues. Make sure you select a firm that can understand and meet your specific needs.
Picking the right accounting firm is an important decision, one that shouldn’t be strictly based upon cost. You wouldn’t run to the cheapest doctor if you had a heart attack, yet too many business owners look solely at cost, and then don’t understand why their business is stagnant or dropping. Your accountant should be your trusted advisor, and a key component of your fiscal team. If they are not helping you drive real fiscal results … maybe it’s time to consider changing.