How to Find an Accountant for your Small Business

How to Find a Small Business Accountant

Small business owners need experts to keep the books straight while they make money. Small Business Trends spoke with the founder of Phlexable, Chad D Cummings, about the best approach for finding an accountant if you don’t have one.

Find a Small Business Accountant

Take a Look at Your Needs and Comfort Level

He began our conversation by saying small businesses need to make a big initial choice when they’re looking for an accountant.

“There are about 650,000 licensed CPAs in the United States alone and about half of those are engaged in private practice,” he says. “Those are local Mom and Pop type CPA firms you can find with a Google search.”

Use Online Portals  

The other option still revolves around the internet, but it approaches selecting an accountant a little differently. Portals give you a wider swath to choose from. Cummings says the small businesses that do well with this option need to be comfortable transacting business online.

Everything from posting the project, to requesting a proposal, to paying is done in cyberspace.

Cummings explains an important caveat for small businesses to consider.

“This is more about a one off ad hoc type project solution. A small business owner looking for something more ongoing without a fixed time limit, should probably still go the old school route,” he says.

As an example, if your small restaurant needs an income tax preparer because their regular accountant is on maternity leave, a portal could be your best choice. On the other hand, if you’re a plumbing shop that needs someone to keep your books in order at tax time and beyond, you might want to look for something more permanent.

Watch Out for The One Stop Shop

There’s a large degree of specialization in accounting. Small business owners need to be on guard for the places that tell them they can do it all. It’s often better to have several experts on board  so you’ve got all the tax bases covered.

“They shouldn’t shy away from having multiple points of contact,” Cummings says. “Maybe  one guy that does the taxes and somebody else to handle the day-to-day bookkeeping.”

The advantage goes to the portal here because it’s easier to hire several different people at once at least for year end tax projects. 

Check Credentials

Regardless of the route you decide to take, it’s important to make sure the CPA you’re considering has the right credentials. You can find all the information you need to be sure the accountant you’re considering has the right background for your state here.

It can be as easy as looking for the license on a wall in a brick and mortar office. A good portal like Phlexable will actually check the credentials for you.

Look for Experience

Even after you decide between a portal or brick and mortar store, you need to narrow down your choices. Make sure you wind up with a firm or individual CPA who has experience in your industry and understands what your specific needs are.

“Not only do I want to make sure this person has experience with tax but also with textile’s tax if I am a textiles manufacturer,” Cummings says adding this extra filter can help smaller enterprises take advantage of all the credits available to their specific businesses.

“You might very well be leaving money on the table by not going with someone who has previous experience in your industry.”

Get Clear Work Arrangements

Finally, it’s important that everyone’s on the same page as far as work arrangements. Make sure you and your accountant understand whether you’ll be using the telephone, emails or texts for communications. It’s also a good idea to decide on information formats to use when you’re transferring files.

If you rely on the Internet, it’s a good idea to be clear on working hours for you and the CPA you choose.

Photo via Shutterstock 20 Comments ▼

Rob Starr Rob Starr is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. Rob is a freelance journalist and content strategist/manager with three decades of experience in both print and online writing. He currently works in New York City as a copywriter and all across North America for a variety of editing and writing enterprises.

20 Reactions
  1. I’ve been fortunate that my older brother’s college roommate is a CPA. He also owns a small carpet cleaning business himself and therefore understands the SMB perspective.

  2. An accountant is really important for a small business. It is better to have one in-house than to constantly outsource your financials.

  3. Thank you for pointing out that it is important to do your research and make sure the accountant you pick has the right credentials. Finding the right accountant for your business seems very important. Hopefully, any business owner needing an accountant does their research and finds the best accountant possible.

  4. I guess QuickBooks Self Employed can be a great help and make the process simple and less time consuming to a great extent.

  5. My husband is thinking about hiring a CPA for his small business because tax season is coming up and you make a great point that he should look for an accountant who has a lot of experience in the industry. This way my husband can have peace of mind that the accountant he hires is knowledgable and up-to-date with any tax law changes. Also, it makes a lot of sense that you should only hire an accountant who has the right credentials and is licensed, so I will make sure to share this information with my husband.

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