Business link’s first paragraph says “It’s important to select an accountant who’s right for your business” and they have a checklist on their site as follows:
- ask about their qualifications
- find out how many partners there are in the practice
- investigate whether they are experienced in dealing with businesses of a similar size and at a similar stage of growth to yours
- assess whether they understand your business sector and its needs
- find out who will look after your business on a day-to-day basis
- ask about their estimated response times
- ask whether the service you will receive will be proactive – eg whether they will remind you when you need to submit accounts, or send you updates on changes in tax law
- find out if they offer any additional services – eg inheritance planning or advice on information systems
- ask whether the practice offers any specialist services – eg in start-ups or stock-market listing
- investigate their charges and what they cover – find out if a fixed fee can be arranged for the first 12 months
I thought it would be useful for me to expand and contribute to some of these points based on my experience of telemarketing for accountants as I regularly gather feedback from people that I speak with who are considering finding an accountant or moving accountants.
Qualifications, whether they understand your business sector and its needs, and whether the practice offers specialist services.
There is such an array of qualifications from the UK and abroad that people can use to advertise their services without people really understanding the difference in them and what it means to them and their business.
Example 1: The Diploma in Charity Accounting (DChA) is a qualification issued by the The Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW). (see Toni Hunter’s blog for more info here) yet the people that I have spoken with in the charity sector have been largely unaware of this qualification and the potential benefits that using someone who has studied specifically in their sectors accounting needs could bring.
Example 2): The Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) is a scheme relevant to people in the construction industry requiring contributions to be made directly to HMRC relevant to construction sub-contractors. Among other things, it means that statements need to be issued showing contributions made and for returns to be submitted monthly. Some accountants have been known to interpret this as a voluntary scheme rather than a mandatory one, but that is a whole different blog article!
Admittedly, qualifications are not everything, and it’s what you do with them that counts, but it should go some way to giving a certain level of confidence and trust in technical ability.
It is difficult for most prospective client’s to try and assess whether an accountant understands their business sector and it’s needs relevant to accounting and financial business advice because put simply “they-don’t-know-what-they-don’t know”.
Something else that can make things difficult is the use of language as one accountant pointed out to me recently. She explained that some accountants, especially highly qualified tax advisers can slip into jargon and spout case law and legislation. This is off-putting for the client as it is more useful to explain complex matters in a way that the business owner understands and this is crucial to a good professional relationship.
So perhaps these are some of the reasons why people resort to choosing an Accountant purely because they are a friend of the family, or have convenient office location with lots of parking, or other reason not related to Qualifications, industry experience, and professionalism.
Where to find a good accountant
Business link suggest that the best way to find a good accountant is by using professional associations or through personal recommendations and say it can be “helpful to ask for recommendations from:
- friends, family, business associates and contacts
- bank or lawyer
- professional or trade associations – this can be a particularly useful route if you’re looking for an accountant that specialises in your industry.”
However, going back to the previous points about Qualifications and Experience in business sectors and relevant to the business needs, it is possibly not the best idea to rely on recommendations from friends, family, business associates and contacts who do not have an appreciation of the business and the business sectors needs.
Business link also say “Once you have found some names and considered their reputations and qualifications, you should draw up a shortlist of about six accountants you’d like to contact.”
This can be time consuming and baffling and it is sometimes a reason why people will actually talk with a telemarketer who is aware of qualifications, industry specific needs, and needs particular to that business to. People do consider our suggestions in line with other recommendations as it is another source of information for them rather than just friends, family, or business associates not in their industry or with different needs.
Business Link suggest that the relationship with an Accountant is reviewed every 3 to 5 years
Their website says “The needs of any business do not stand still and a good accountant should adapt with you. However, every three to five years, it can make good business sense to ask:
- Is my business still getting value for money?
- Is my accountant informative and easy to contact?
- Does my accountant still suit the needs of my business?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then it could be time to find another accountant who is better suited to your current requirements.”
From our experience at Maxxy, not many people review the relationship with their Accountant that often. Some will be prompted to review after an unsatisfactory event or when a change is imposed (such as the Accountant’s moving office location or change in the person dealing with day to day affairs) but not many people deliberately make a point of reviewing the relationship when things are ticking along satisfactorily even if they could potentially save money in fees or get better value for money elsewhere.
A telemarketing call can sometimes serve as a prompt to find out a bit more information and consider a review of services for their business needs.
I would be happy to hear people’s views and a link to the Business Link site that I have used as a source of information is here