Choosing the right accountant can be an intimidating thing. The average city has dozens of accounting firms available to choose from. How are you supposed to know which is the best?
We’ve put together a step by step guide to help you find the perfect firm for you.
Step #1: Identify Needs
Why are you looking to hire a CPA? What are you trying to accomplish?
Some examples could be:
- File your personal taxes
- Manage payroll for your small business
- Assist with IRS audit
- Questions about retirement
Knowing what you are trying to accomplish is an essential first step in selecting the right CPA.
Step #2: Establish Goals
So you know you need someone to help you with your taxes (our example), but why? What is your desired end result?
For most, the desired end result is getting as much money back from your tax return as possible. Once you establish your goals, write them down and keep them safe.
Step #3: Ask Family & Friends
By now, you should know why you need an accountant, and what you want them to achieve. All that’s left is finding the firm to do it for you.
Personal recommendations from people you trust are extremely valuable. If your best friend’s accountant has been great for them, there is a great chance that the same accountant will be great for you.
Ask around, and even if someone in your family swears by their accountant, write down their info and keep looking. You never know, you may find someone even better, 5 miles closer to you. It’s important to have options.
Step #4: Begin Searching Yourself
Maybe your family and friends didn’t have any recommendations. Or maybe they did and you want to keep digging a little. Now it’s time for you to do a little work yourself.
We list great firms from cities all over the country. Plus, we list which services they specialize in, so you can further narrow down your list. Lastly, we offer a direct link to their website, so you can exactly what each firm is about before ever making contact.
Outside of our own directory, you can try your local telephone book. Although they offer less information, fewer total firms, and don’t screen their firms, it’s usually helpful to collect as much information as you can.
Step #5: Call Your Final 4 Firms
Hopefully, by now, you have a shortlist of firms to choose from. These firms should all be within your allowed travel distance and offer the services you require. But before you start dialing, write down the questions you are going to ask them.
- Do you offer a free consultation?
- Pricing structure?
- Years of experience?
- Education Background?
- Associations they belong to?
- Specialty Services? (What are they really good at)
- Communication Standards? (How & when will you communicate with each other)
- Can they achieve the goals you have?
- How will they achieve your goals? (How quickly?)
- Can they supply references?
These questions are a great way to get an accountant to really open up and talk honestly. No sales speeches or gimmicks, just honest answers.
The point of the phone call is to accomplish two things:
- Can they effectively reach your goals?
- Do they make you feel comfortable?
If they can do what you want, and get it done by the time you want it done. All that’s left to figure out is if you will be comfortable working with them.
You want to ensure that anytime you have a question, they will give you a polite and honest answer.
This may seem like a lot of work, but keep in mind that this decision can have a significant impact on your life. It’s better to take your time and make a great choice.
Step #6: Get Your Paperwork Together
If you’ve made your decision by now, great! All that’s left is to get your financial paperwork together and schedule a time to meet. If you still aren’t sure on which firm to hire, it’s time to utilize their free consultation offers.
Most firms will offer you a meeting for free. In this meeting, you can discuss your situation, your goals, pricing, and anything else you’re curious about. Make sure to bring any important financial documents as well as a notebook to write down what they say.
You should be able to make a confident decision following these meetings.
Step #7: Choose a Winner!
By now, you should have more than enough information to make a great decision. Call up the winning firm, and schedule your first official appointment.
Make sure you ask what paperwork you will need to bring and how long they expect the meeting to last. (Sometimes, these meetings can take a while)
Smile, You’ve Done Well
Sure it’s easier to choose the first firm in the phonebook. But taking your time and making an informed decision based on your specific needs will pay off big time in the long run. For now, sit back and relax knowing your finances are in great hands.