Remember that you want a long and fruitful relationship with your accountant, so take your time in choosing someone you feel comfortable with and gives you confidence. Draw up a shortlist of several accountants, and make sure each works with small business clients and has experience with dealing with companies in your sector.
Contact each accountant on your shortlist and ask about their practices. What is their experience in your sector? Can they deal with your business’s unique needs? For example, if your company is internet related you may need someone familiar with ecommerce, or if you are into exporting you might want experience of export strategy. What are the charges – is there a fixed annual or monthly fee to complete all business tax requirements or do hourly fees apply? Will a partner look after the business or will it be passed to a junior? How many partners are there in the practice? Will they be proactive and send reminders about when to submit accounts or send updates on changes in the law? How quickly will the firm reply to requests for help and advice?
Consider also what other services the accountant provides. Can they complete your self-assessment returns, do they provide business advice or further information to help you business grow? What about advice on information systems, or inheritance planning? Do they have any specialities, such as start-ups or stock-market listing? Ask to speak to existing clients if you wish.
Meet your prospective accountant and make sure you feel at ease. It is important to develop a good relationship and know your finances are being handled by someone you can trust. Remember that of all the advisers you are likely to encounter when running a small business, a good accountant is perhaps the most valuable one you have. After all, what is more important than the finance and profitability of your business?