What constitutes a 'good accountant'? One that you can afford and that specialises in the areas you need help with? Starting with working out what you need an accountant for and what they can do for you is a good starting point.
The process of finding a good accountant is similar to the sourcing of any other professional service – firstly you will need to identify your exact accounting requirements (i.e. are you an individual or are you acting on behalf of a company and what is the nature of your business?).
Secondly, you then need to find an accountant who is able to fulfil your exact requirements. No point hiring KPMG to get the books done for a one man band!.
As with any sector, 'accountancy' actually covers a number of services ranging from auditing to M&A or bookkeeping. You will therefore need to find an individual or company who can best help you and/or your business.
Many people may struggle to find a good accountant – there are a number individuals or accountancy firms out there to choose from, but without a little know-how, locating the correct person(s) for the job can be somewhat daunting. To this end, it can be wise to build a referral list. If someone that you know (i.e. a business contact, friend or family member) has recently used the services of a good accountant, ask them if they would recommend the person or firm for your accountancy needs. If the answer is yes, add them to a ‘short-list’, you will soon find that you have a substantial list of names from trusted sources.
It is also very wise to ask professionals in your local area for advice, for example; your financial advisor/planner, local bank, insurance agent or insurance association group – many of these contacts will be able to help you in your quest to find a good accountant, as the likelihood is that they will have some knowledge of individual accountants and accountancy firms in the industry.
Also talk to business owners who are in your immediate sector that you do not directly compete with – accountancy requirements differ widely depending on the nature of your business, so they are perhaps best-placed to offer you helpful advice.
Once you have built up a short-list, it’s time to narrow down your options – ideally, you should arrange a meeting with all of the names on your list, however, this can be a very time-consuming task and unachievable for the majority of people.
This is a fairly simple process, for example; if you find that the same name has been mentioned more than once by your contacts, add them to your ‘final’ list – likewise, try to opt for locally-based accountants/accountancy firms rather than those who are based a large distance away (unless they are very highly recommended).
Another great way to narrow down your list is to contact a number of them, either via telephone or by letter/email and choose the accountants who respond quickly and who clearly understand the needs of you/your business. However, you will also need to consider the fees that they charge for their services, especially if you are working on a tight budget.
A good accountant or accountancy firm will be upfront with any fees involved and should be very easy to approach with any questions that you may have.
Don’t forget to take a list of questions with you when you ‘interview’ potential accountants. There's lots to choose from out there and whether the first one you visit is right for you or not, you need them to get the numbers right for your business.