While the accounting department is invaluable in tracking profits and losses and keeping the business running, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) serves as an external watchdog with responsibility for tax preparation and making sure that the company’s books are ready for public viewing, when necessary. The CPA uses generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to prepare financial statements for investors, or for private companies they provide other consulting services, such as advice on accounting systems, financial planning, retirement planning, estate and tax planning, and more. For business owners, a good CPA should serve as a trusted member of the executive advisory team, similar to a banker and a lawyer.
CPAs come with different specialties and can provide expert advice on a wide range of topics. There are different ways to identify a CPA who is right for your organization:
1. Ask for a referral. The local Chamber of Commerceand professional or networking organizations are one way to identify qualified CPAs that could suit the company’s needs.
2. Apply the 60% rule. For business owners in particular, choose a CPA for whom 60% of their business is made up of companies of similar sizes and needs. Seek out CPA professionals familiar with businesses that are similar to your company and who offers the services you require, such as creating financial statements, audits, etc.
3. Check their fees. See if they have a rate sheet or standardized fees. Also see what their hourly rate is and determine what the cost would be to ask questions and seek their advice.
4. Check on record-keeping procedures. Do they use computerized record keeping? Is it compatible with the company’s bookkeeping systems? If you can align technology platforms it will save money in the long run.
5. Provide information in advance. Bring a copy of the company’s financial statements and tax records to provide a portrait of the business and its needs, and ask what might be required to support the business and what it might cost.
6. Interview different CPAs. Ask what type of services they provide for their clients, how long they have been in business, get references, and ask them what makes them stand out in their field. Compare services and fees. See which CPA might be a better fit for the organization.
A CPA can be a valuable ally in helping guide the direction of the company, set strategic goals, and assess milestones along the road to success. Be sure to choose an accounting partner whose expertise and capabilities align with the company’s goals and objectives.