Ten Questions To Ask An Accountant
If you’re looking for an accountant in Leduc, Alberta, whether it’s for personal taxes or business planning, it’s important to pick a reliable agency with high standards. After all, the end product will have a direct impact on your business’s financial growth! Therefore, it’s essential to choose an accounting firm that you can trust to help you make strategic financial decisions for your business and keep you up-to-date with real-time information.
If you’ve never worked with an accountant before, or if you have and have not found that experience to be enjoyable, you may not know where to start when it comes to choosing the right one for your business. To make the whole process easier for you, we’ve outlined ten valuable questions to ask a potential financial expert.
During your initial consultation, ask these questions to help you understand if this firm is the right fit for you, and capable of providing sound advice for your business’s financial needs.
1. When will my monthly financial reports be available?
Businesses that hire a bookkeeper do so because they want access to the valuable financial information that their books generate. Failure to provide timely financial reporting robs these businesses of attaining valuable insight into their financials, which is proven to improve their decision-making process leading to increased profitability. Companies should never hire a bookkeeper without first receiving a commitment to when their monthly financial reporting will be available. While several variables can affect this monthly deadline, an acceptable time-frame will typically range from between ten to thirty days following the last day of the month.
2. How much will this service cost me each month?
A great bookkeeper is a valuable professional that provides expert insight into the financial status of your business. As such, it’s extremely important that you understand the full monthly cost of this service before choosing which professional’s service you’ll use. Asking your potential bookkeeper, what is your hourly rate is a very misleading question as it fails to provide clarity around the service’s full monthly cost. Instead, ask how much will this service cost each month? Or what is your fixed monthly price? These are far better questions as they generate a commitment by your service provider and eliminate surprises. Furthermore, it forces the bookkeeper to do a complete analysis of your file and the necessary work in advance to answer this question, which will eliminate further surprises and lead to a much higher quality of service.
3. What form of communication is preferred? What is the typical response time?
The number one reason I hear from business owners as to why they have chosen to leave their existing bookkeeper is lack of communication. It usually begins with a failure to set reasonable expectations initially, but that quickly leads to business owners calling and emailing their bookkeeper to ask for a status update or to ask for insight into their financial reporting. If the bookkeeper is overwhelmed or busy working on another file frequently, this leads to avoidance of calls or emails. When choosing a bookkeeper, you should always identify which form of communication they prefer (phone or email), and what is the typical response time? This commitment sets out proper expectations for both parties and builds trust between both parties.
4. Are you a generalist or an expert in accounting software?
Some bookkeepers are generalists. They will work with whatever software the potential client uses already. Others are experts, they focus on one software in particular to offer a higher level of expertise in that one software. So, plan which bookkeeper you want to hire as it will impact the quality of work they can deliver. For instance, if a bookkeeper predominately uses Sage or Xero, but they have one or two clients who use Quickbooks, don’t expect them to deliver the same quality service on Quickbooks.
Additionally, most businesses are now beginning to switch to cloud accounting (i.e., QBO vs. Quickbooks Desktop). If you’re considering a bookkeeper that prefers to use Quickbooks Desktop, but you want to utilize the advanced services offered by QBO, don’t expect to receive the same quality of service. It is usually recommended that you seek a bookkeeping professional who is an expert in the software you plan to use vs. a generalist. This will typically deliver a much higher quality of service.
5. How do you ensure consistent quality work?
Every client is unique, and so too are the monthly transactions that occur for that client. Failure to recognize this initially leads to increased cost, multiple distracting repeat questions, and poor quality bookkeeping (i.e., lack of consistency in where transactions are recorded in General Ledger). Whether the bookkeeper is a solopreneur or a large firm, they must utilize a client-specific procedure manual to ensure consistency in the monthly reporting. A bookkeeping firm that employs client-specific procedure manuals will typically begin by asking lots of questions.
However, those questions will start to taper off after a few months as the bookkeeper gains experience in your file. You will quickly start recognizing that their expertise, level of knowledge of your business, and industry are increasing, making them a valuable partner to your business.
6. How do you ensure quality transition when introducing new technology, processes, or procedures?
In this rapidly changing world, it’s tough to keep up with financial accounting by yourself, especially if you are running a business. The accounting and bookkeeping industry has undertaken tremendous change over the last decade, and it’s increasing now at even faster rates. This means that to get the best financial intelligence out of your accounting system and gain a competitive edge vs. others in your industry, you need to be working with a firm experienced in change management. They should be more than just familiar with the latest bookkeeping software, such as Quickbooks Online (QBO), and should be capable of guiding you throughout the transition. Before deciding who to hire as your next bookkeeper, you need to ask them how they will ensure your business experiences a quality transition to the new software, new processes, or new procedures that they are suggesting you adopt.
7. What services are offered by your firm? What services are not?
A long time ago, people used to envision bookkeepers as data entry clerks.
While this may have been sufficient years ago, it is no longer adequate to accept in today’s environment. Businesses now require that their bookkeeping professional provide a full-service ‘Outsourced Accounting Department’. For this reason, you need to ask a bookkeeper what services they offer and what services they do not provide.
Here’s a glimpse of what services you should expect from your bookkeeping professional, including the recording of all transactions, reconciling all bank and credit card and loan accounts, reconciling vendor statements, processing all bill payments, recording cash receipts, processing sales tax returns, payroll processing, ensuring that sales and costs are all recorded in the correct period, recording fixed asset depreciation, ensuring the accurate coding of all transactions, providing professional interaction with your CPA for financial reporting, compliance, and preparation of your corporate tax returns.
8. Do you provide monthly expert interpretation? Analysis? Review of financial results? Or only data entry?
Your bookkeeping professional isn’t merely a data entry clerk. While this may have been true years ago, it merely is insufficient today. Your bookkeeping professional should be able to not just accurately record your transactions, but also provide expert interpretation of the monthly financial results, in-depth analysis into the month to month and year over year trends that are occurring, and guidance that helps you make better monthly decisions. However, many bookkeepers still lack the awareness of the big picture you require from your financial system. As such, they fail to provide you with the expert advice that your business needs to be a leader in profitability. You must ask the professional what level of proactive guidance they are prepared to give you each month.
9. Do you have strong relationships that can assist me in my business? Are they professionally connected?
No professional operates in a bubble, and every company requires professionals in many different areas of expertise to ensure that every business’s needs are always addressed. As a business owner, it often is quite challenging to bring together the right team of professionals to complete a job. So hire a strong professional who not only does a great job on their own but is well-connected with other professionals in their respective fields to complete the task faster.
With an interconnected network of professionals, you receive two primary benefits as the business owner. Firstly it ensures that the right professional always does the work. Secondly, it ensures that those professionals have a strong working relationship (who wouldn’t refer a professional to their client that they didn’t love working with). In the end, the customer is always better served when their bookkeeping professional can connect them with other great professionals (accountants, lawyers, insurance agents, bankers, real estate agents, to name a few).
10. What roles will I be responsible for? What roles will you be accountable for?
I’m sure that everyone has heard stories of how the bookkeeper they’ve hired and how their roles and responsibilities were not clearly defined upfront. This usually happens when one party believes it’s the other’s responsibility or gets in each other’s way, which causes frustration.
Before hiring a bookkeeper, you should always ask what roles will the bookkeeper be responsible for (and how will you get the information that you need to complete that work) and what roles will I be responsible for? When you get a proper understanding of each party’s roles and responsibilities, this will lead to tremendous success in managing reporting deadlines as time is spared in wondering who does what task?
Want to enlist the services of an accountant in Leduc, Alberta, who can provide you with financial clarity and get your business on track? Then say hi to us at Birch Accounting & Tax Services.
Backed by a passionate and driven team, we’re dedicated and committed to helping you boost your company’s revenue and steer your business in the right direction. We provide real-time insight into your financial information so that you make better decisions and take your business to the next level.