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What qualities should you look for in a small business accountant?

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If you run a small business, it is highly recommended that you hire an accountant. Not only can they help you keep your books and prepare your taxes, but they can also help you make business finance decisions. Here are some things to look for when you start interviewing candidates to be your new accountant.

Education and Certification

The first thing to look at is what type of education the candidate has received. Take a look at their resume and find college-level courses in accounting, bookkeeping, and finance. While they don't need to have a major in accounting, having some education in finance or small business is often necessary. Also find out if they have proper certification to be an accountant, along with certification in preparing taxes.

Industry Experience

Not only do you want a small business accountant to have experience, but in your industry specifically. Many accountants specialise in certain industries, such as contractors, manufacturers, retailers, or freelancers. You need someone familiar with your business and what you are trying to accomplish. They will then be more familiar with cash flow and other issues that might come up as they relate to your business finances.

Positive References

Always check a candidate's references, even if they seem trustworthy, reliable, and experienced. Not only can their professional references verify the employment they are claiming on their resume and application, but they can also give you some insight into the candidate's potential weaknesses. It might not be a deal breaker, but it is good to know if the person you are hiring sometimes shows up late or calls in often. Also ask the previous employer if they would hire the accountant again and the reason why they left their last job.

Business Finance Know-How

It is a good idea to find an accountant who really knows the ins and outs of business finance, and not just basic accounting practices or tax preparation. This should be a specialist who takes the time to learn as much as they can about different industries. Look for an accountant who knows about risk assessment, bookkeeping, and business valuation. They should also be aware of how to improve the success of a startup, and how to look at budgets and forecasting.

Good Communication Skills

When you interview the candidate, pay close attention to their communication skills. They should seem familiar with answering questions and should be comfortable talking on the phone when you call to schedule the interview. If you sent an email to respond to their application or resume, pay attention to how long it takes for them to respond and how the email response was written. Things like proper spelling, grammar and sentence structure are important things to look for.

Keep these tips in mind as you search for qualified accountants, and you'll be able to find the right accountant for your business.