Top 5 Things to Know When Hiring a CPA
First of all, you’ve made the right decision to hire a CPA to support you in your business! From the outset, you know that your advisor has undergone intensive study and passed a high bar. But with so many professionals to choose from, where do you start? Here are some pointers for your search.
Experience in your industry
Education and experience are not the same things. Ideally, you want a CPA who has worked for businesses in your industry over some years. Why does this matter? The right tax strategy will differ depending on the type of challenges a business faces. Probe potential advisors on how many years they have been working and who they have been working for. Specialist advisors may charge a bit more, but you’ll find this premium is worth it.
(And as a side note, beware of low fees. They are typically low for a good reason!)
Range of services
A CPA will build up a detailed view of your business in the course of their work. A good CPA will go beyond the usual ‘tax season’ issues and make broader recommendations for your business. For example, they can recommend intelligent ways to structure your business or more efficient ways to manage cash flow. It makes sense to take advantage of these services if they are available. In most cases, the result will be large and ongoing savings for your firm. Ask if they consult outside the scope of your immediate needs, and get a sense of whether they are narrow or ‘big-picture’ thinkers. We are known at Areti for understanding the value of consultation over compliance.
Organization and attention to detail
The stereotype that all accountants are super-organized and detail-oriented is true – most of the time! Since you are trusting your CPA with confidential data and may seek their input on important business decisions, you need to be sure that they are equal to the task.
From your initial discussion, get a sense of whether they answer questions in a clear, logical manner. If you visit their office, observe if they are old-school and paper-based. A poorly-run office leads to higher bills, and lower quality work.
Availability and communication style
What sort of relationship do you want to have? Depending on your needs, you may only wish to engage once a year by phone. If you plan for a more consultative relationship, you may need the ability to set up frequent video calls and periodic on-site sessions.
Whatever your preferences, your CPA should have both the willingness and the ability (e.g. technology) to accommodate you. You should set these expectations before beginning a formal relationship.
Are you compatible?
Although a relationship with a CPA may appear to be purely about numbers and facts, trust plays a major role in success.
This is true on both sides of the table. You need to feel comfortable working closely with your advisor. Your advisor needs also to have faith that you will be open and receptive to their guidance.
Establishing trust comes down to finding a good ‘fit’ from a personality perspective, as we tend to work well with people we get along with. This is especially true in matters of money, which is an emotional topic. Business textbooks tend to leave this out, but in our experience, personality fit can often be the decisive factor!
Finding the right CPA should not be a difficult task, if you prepare for the meeting carefully, and pay close attention during the conversation itself.
A relatively modest investment of time and effort up-front will deliver handsome returns for years to come. Good luck during this tax season. Remember to reach out and contact us if you have any questions.