When it comes to your small business, finding a reliable accountant can be nerve-wracking. You want an accountant who understands the ins and outs of your small business — one you can trust. But once you do score the perfect accountant, you can finally loosen the reigns and let him do what he does best . . . right? Not so fast. While finding the right accountant can be a weight off your shoulders, you should still find ways to ensure your accountants stay accountable for the services they provide for your small business. This doesn’t mean you should be a “helicopter boss” to your accountant; however, it does mean you should ask questions, set deadlines and goals, and have regular check-ins to guarantee you’re both on the same page.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
One of the first mistakes that small-business owners make when hiring an accountant is being afraid to ask questions. The more questions you ask your accountant, the more you can understand what you’re paying her to do. By asking questions, you might also give the new hire valuable information about what your biggest concerns are so she can focus more on these areas. There are certain questions you should always ask before settling on an accountant. (Although, if you’ve already hired one, it’s better to ask them now than never!) Some of these questions include:
- What kind of experience do you have, especially in dealing with small businesses?
- Exactly what services do you offer? Do they include preparing taxes, valuing the business, budgeting and bookkeeping, assessing risks, and giving advice?
- What are your professional qualifications and/or licenses?
Some of the questions you can ask to keep your accountant accountable after the hire include ones like, “How are you helping prepare my small business for tax season?” and “How are you helping grow my business?”
Set Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Annual Deadlines
Setting deadlines is another progressive approach to keeping your accountant accountable. Depending on your small business’s needs, these deadlines can vary greatly. It’s best to sit down with your accountant and ask him what he thinks are reasonable deadlines and to decide on them together.
Daily accounting deadlines for your small business might include checking your small business’s cash position, while weekly ones might include recording transactions, filing receipts, reviewing unpaid vendor bills, sending invoices, and more. Some bookkeeping tasks are made easier for your accountant with online software, such as managing invoices and payments with Sage.
When setting monthly deadlines, keep in mind analyzing your small business’s inventory status and reviewing payroll, and yearly deadlines should always include filling out IRS forms.
Differentiate Deadlines from Goals
While deadlines are important, goals may be even more important. Deadlines get your business from day to day, but goals help grow your small business in the long term. By setting goals with your accountant, you’re holding her accountable by reminding her that you expect her to do more than just the status quo of work.
Instead, your accountant should take strides to analyze growth periods and deficits to see what actions you can take to grow your small business. Your goals will very often differ from your accountant’s goals, so it’s important to have a conversation about this.
Have Weekly or Monthly Check-Ins
The best way to ensure that you and your small business’s accountant are on the same page when it comes to deadlines and goals is to schedule weekly or monthly check-ins. These meetings should be taken as seriously as those with your clients, and you should tell your accountant that you expect him to come prepared with questions and comments worth chatting about. If you’re too busy to sit down with your accountant weekly, consider corresponding once weekly by Skype or email, then meeting once monthly. By scheduling these check-ins, your accountant will have no excuses not to agree with you on your deadlines and goals. Sharing a Google calendar or other shared-calendar service like Teamup Calendar is one of the best ways to schedule times that work best for you both.
You should be diligent in keeping your accountant accountable for the services he provides your small business. This can be made painless by asking questions, setting goals and deadlines, and maintaining weekly or monthly check-ins.