April 15th is fast approaching, and regardless of the size of your business, you should carefully consider hiring an accountant. Accountants can not only help during tax time, but they can be a huge asset to your business in many other ways: managing your company’s finances, growth planning, developing business plans, managing risk, securing financing, and dealing with audits. Even if you have an accounting background yourself, unless you’re handling your company’s accounting full time, you’re likely too busy running the business to give the job the full attention it deserves.
Richard Ollek, CBSE, is a senior partner with Consultants in Cleaning, a firm that offers consulting services to BSCs. Before he was a consultant, Ollek owned his own cleaning company for 34 years, and since he had accounting experience himself, he was at first reluctant to hire an accountant. However, once he finally did hire one, he was extremely impressed with the results.
“Though I felt I couldn’t afford an accountant, I hired one anyway,” says Ollek. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was one of the smartest decisions I ever made. This gentleman paid for himself in a very short time. He analyzed things much deeper than I had, and he offered suggestions and alternative ways of doing things that made us additional profit.”
Since accountants play such a crucial role in your business, it’s vital that you choose the right one. Don’t just pick someone randomly—do some research to ensure you find a person that fits best your operation. The following tips will help you hone your search for a qualified accountant.
Go with a CPA
CPAs, or Certified Public Accountants, boast top-notch credentials among accounting professionals, including passing a national accounting exam, along with holding certain educational standards and on-the-job experience. While those with lesser credentials may be able to help you with certain things, like tax preparation, only CPAs are legally eligible to perform the full range of professional accounting services and represent your company should the IRS come knocking.
Ask fellow BSCs who they use as their accountant, and see if those candidates are a good fit for your business. Other good options for referrals include your local chamber of commerce, your attorney, your banker, or your state’s professional society of CPAs. Visit the American Institute of CPAs’ website at www.aicpa.org for a list of each state’s professional society chapter.
Look for industry experience
If possible, find a CPA with experience working in the BSC industry. Our business comes with its own set of unique circumstances and challenges, so having an accountant who is knowledgeable of commercial cleaning is ideal. Your fellow BSCs should know of accountants with such a background, or you can look to professional associations, such as the BSCAI, for help. If you can’t find an accountant who has worked with BSCs, at least select one that is experienced in working with companies that are a similar size and structure (LLC, sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership) as yours.
Get the services you need
Select an accountant that offers the full range of financial services you need. Depending on the firm, accountants perform a variety of tasks. Most offer tax and auditing services, but from there, the level of services offered can vary greatly: bookkeeping, installing financial technology, managing investments, payroll, preparing financial statements, obtaining financing, budget planning, among others. Even if your business is currently small and you don’t need a large range of services now, when your business grows, you’ll likely want to have access to additional ones, so look for a firm that can cover all the bases both now and in the future.
Depending on what level of services you require, you may need to be in touch with your accountant quite frequently or maybe only a few times a year. Given this, find out how available your accountant will be if you need them, how much time they will dedicate to your company, and whether or not they will be delegating the work to other staff members at their firm. Also determine where they will do the work: at your office or at theirs.
Discuss all costs upfront
Make sure you are clear upfront about how much an accountant’s services will cost. Most accountants charge by the hour and fees can range anywhere from $150 to $400 per hour, but some will work for a flat fee or on a monthly retainer. If they charge by the hour, ask whether or not they charge you every time you call them for help. To shop around for the best hourly rates, bring a copy of your tax return and ask the accountant to give you a rough estimate of what their services would cost for a business like yours.