As with every other business service, it can be difficult to know where to start when you’re looking for an accountant. Do you go for a big national company in a swanky London office, or the local family-run business just down the road? Do you go for the company your friend recommended despite their questionable reviews online or do you take a chance on someone new? It can all be a bit of a headache switching accountants if you get it wrong, so make sure you do your research first time round.
The first thing you should do is think realistically about the size of your business and what sort of accountancy services you might need. A good rule of thumb is to go for an accountant who is part of a business of roughly the same size as your own. If you own a clothing shop for locals in Lancing, go for a small Lancing-based accountant. If you have a large multi-national business, a larger accountancy firm might be better equipped to deal with your more complex needs.
Location might also factor into your decision-making process if you intend to meet with your accountant in person. While you may be able to hold meetings over the phone, it can be really useful to speak to your accountant face-to-face, especially if you need anything explaining. They will also need access to your documents and accounts, which is much easier if they are based locally and you can drop your information off in person to ensure it has arrived safely.
Another thing to think about is the cost. It is no good spending a fortune on an accountant outside your realistic budget, as ironically they may contribute to your financial problems by leaving you short of money. However, you should also be wary if their services seem suspiciously cheap. If it seems too good to be true, do a bit of research and make sure they’re as good as they claim to be.
If you’re relatively new to the business world, it is advisable to opt for an experienced accountant rather than someone newly qualified. You need all the help you can get in the early stages of business ownership, and someone who specialises in your industry or fledgling businesses can be absolutely invaluable. When you have more experience yourself, you may feel more comfortable letting a new accountant train with your company, but in the early days, stick to the established characters who know exactly what they’re doing.
Kelly Arnold is a small business start up consultant who advises young firms on getting setup for business.
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