Would you agree to move in with someone without having a first date?
So why would you sign on to work with an accountant without interviewing them?
Yes... interviewing them.
Remember that you have a choice in who you choose to engage in your business. Your accountant actually gets to see many parts of the business no one else does, so trust is everything.
Here are five of the questions to ask in your interview:
1.) How will they help you achieve your goals?
This is your chance to assess whether they understand your goals and are committed to helping you reach them. You don’t want to feel like another cookie cutter client, so make sure you feel like they understand what you do and why you do it.
2.) Who will be working on your account?
In many cases, the person you meet with at a firm is not the one actually helping you with your tasks. Find out of the person they are assigning is an unlicensed staff. It is okay if it is, but make sure their work goes through review and that you are getting the right expertise needed. Also, make sure the fees align with the answer. More on that below.
3.) Do they bill by the hour?
The classic accounting firm model is to add up all the hours they work in a client and multiply by an hourly rate. More experienced professionals tend to charge more. If they bill hourly, make sure you know how much time is being spent and what they are working on. Don’t be afraid to ask for a detailed breakdown or question the bilked items if they do not make sense.
4.) Do they have secure systems?
Make sure they have secure data storage and transfer tools if you are sending any data electronically. Ask how they store and protect personal information like social security numbers, passwords and bank account info.
5.) What would their clients say about them?
Ideally, there should be plenty of testimonials from the accountant to give you an idea, but it is a great question to ask. You may want to go a bit deeper and ask “what is the most common piece of critical feedback you/your firm receives?"