One of the more important things in your start up experience will be finding a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to help you setup the books for your business. I made a mistake when I moved from our family accountant to a local small business firm a few years ago, and found out picking the wrong accountant can cost you time and money (but it is not a permanent failure.) This was one of my scariest business mistakes.
Long story short – one night my accountant was on the evening news in handcuffs doing a ‘perp walk.’ You probably saw him. I called his office and asked for my records, but they were all under lock and key. Thankfully, after a review by a new firm which got copies of my returns from the state and federal agencies, all was in order with my filings. He had just ripped off others, but it cost me time and money to have to do the review.
So, how did I find this guy? Referral. He had great credentials, and was helping two other small businesses in my community. The owners liked him and told me he had set them up well. He was also a member of my college alumni association. That all sounds great, but it didn’t work. So, how do you find someone to trust with your accounting?
First, look for a Certified Public Account (CPA). Why? CPA directory has some concise answers. Specifically, they tend to have a higher level of expertise, independence and objectivity through their training. Next, look to see how long the firm has been in business. This list of State CPA societies may help you do your research. Read the firm’s website. Talk to the person who will be in charge of your accounts – do they know your industry? Check with the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) because under the “For the Public” tab you can see any disciplinary action taken on a firm or accountant, and you can get recommendations for specialized firms.
Finally, do use your network. Find other firms in your industry that these accountants work with, and ask for references. I interviewed 4 firms and spoke with references before choosing my current accountant. He knows what I do, and has helped me figure out the proper way to account for expenses, make decisions on a “buy versus lease” scenario, and has recommended other professionals I needed in my consulting practice.
Making a choice on an accountant can be scary, but if you pick the right one you can benefit by making sure you send the right amount to the government, and keep the right amount for your firm – and that’s not trivial.
Bonus reading: Choose the Right CPA for Your Business from About.com
Got questions on where, how, when to find a CPA for your business? Or are you up against a wall, wondering what the answer is to a tax or accounting question that you have? We have several CPA experts waiting to answer any and all your queries so go ahead, post them here!