How a CPA should service businesses and organizations is changing. Companies and entrepreneurs need to consider several factors before choosing a CPA firm, from tax law changes, continued outsourcing by many firms, and other changes. When searching for a CPA firm, what qualities should an entrepreneur consider?
Ability to steer big picture planning and follow through with detailed implementation
Will the firm be able to visualize what five years from now may look like for the business? What about possible investors, mergers, and acquisitions? How much attention to detail will the firm give, and how quickly and efficiently will the firm implement the best financial strategy for the business?
Relevant knowledge and experience
Does the firm know and understand the industry and the level of support needed? What are the firm’s experiences and background in the areas most essential to the business? Having the knowledge and wisdom to manage the day-to-day seen and unforeseen challenges is critical to continued growth. A firm that helps build business through relevant experience is best suited to help through future challenges and market changes.
Availability and accessibility
How available are the members of the firm, even during the busy tax season? If an emergency or urgent need arose, how responsive would the firm be? Availability needs to be the first topic addressed when establishing an agreement with a new firm. How quickly will you receive a response? Who will your main point of contact be? Some partners handle sales and new business at many firms, then pass actual work on to others.
Communication: ability to proactively communicate impactfully both with and beyond numbers
Proper accounting is not possible without clear communication. Good communication extends beyond just the numbers; it is the processes and structures between the business and the firm that will best suit the company’s needs. Clearly communicating the numbers and the systems behind those numbers allow for stability and growth. Using the numbers to identify both problems and opportunities will help a business in multiple ways.
Technological competence, especially in two core areas: (1) data security; (2) ability to help streamline processes and eliminate unnecessary steps to create a strong cash flow position
After evaluating accessibility, entrepreneurs and businesses should assess technological competence in evaluating a firm. Keeping all financial data secure is paramount, but effectively using technology for robust, efficient processes to reduce time and costs is also critical. The more effective a business is in this core competence, the more a company saves in time, costs and continues to fuel further growth.
Passion for creatively solving problems and exploring opportunities
Will the firm’s partners and members see issues like headaches and obstacles or use problems to show their true talents and value? The value of a firm goes beyond assisting with tax returns and bookkeeping questions; it starts with taking (recommend the word identifying) issues and finding opportunities. Will the CPA go beyond number-crunching to suggest alternatives and improvements and act as a sounding board for ideas and questions?
References from existing clients
Perhaps the most critical aspect of evaluating a new firm is the references that the firm can provide. Even if the firm is starting up, its partners should provide references and previous work experience pertinent to the industry and experience. Even if this is the firm’s first time working with a particular industry, determine if the firm has worked with related sectors and can apply that experience to the needs of the business.
Providing a fee structure that fits your needs and reflects real value, not just time and expense billing
One of the best changes in innovative accounting firms is structuring fees based on the firm’s value to the business or entrepreneur. For many, retainers and sometimes surprise fees are the past. Suppose a firm can provide a fee structure that best fits the model and value provided to the entrepreneur or business and serve as a growth partner rather than just another vendor. In that case, the firm is better suited to grow with the industry and receive better referrals from other companies.