Every business, irrespective of its size, requires a professional team to handle its accounting and bookkeeping functions. And when it comes to hiring an accounting and bookkeeping firm, asking the right questions is not only necessary but also highly important. If your business is still just growing, and if it’s your first time hiring a bookkeeper or an accountant, you may not be very sure about what to ask or verify before you sign the deal.
Hiring an incompetent firm can prove to be a costly mistake in the long run, because bookkeeping is the base of your business’s financial data.
The five most necessary questions you need to ask an accounting and bookkeeping firm before you hire them?
1. Is the Accounting Firm Familiar With Your Business and Industry?
The fundamentals of accounting may remain the same across industries. However, there are several special laws and provisions that apply only to certain businesses and trades. In order to ensure that your organization doesn’t accidentally forego compliance of these special laws, if any, it’s essential that the accounting and bookkeeping firm you hire is familiar with your industry.
You should find out if any of the accountants in the firm have prior experience with clients in the same industry as you are. Hiring a firm with no prior exposure to your industry may not be in your best interests, because it means that your accountants will have to learn on the job. And being a part of a bookkeeping firm’s learning curve isn’t something you want to take a gamble on.
2. What Services Do They Offer as Part of Their Accounting and Bookkeeping Package?
You’ll be surprised to learn that not all bookkeeping firms offer comprehensive accounting services. Some of them may limit their scope to data entry alone, while others may go further and offer services like reconciliation, filing of tax returns, preparation of financial statements, and cash flow forecast. Accounting and bookkeeping are both all-inclusive processes that need to be performed simultaneously.
In order to keep your financial operations functioning smoothly, it’s best to hire a firm that offers comprehensive service packages that cover the whole process from start to finish. Dividing up the tasks between an internal team and a third-party accounting firm can lead to glitches in the bookkeeping process. So, inquire about the services the firm offers, and opt for an agency that delivers all-inclusive assistance.
3. How Qualified Are the Accountants and Bookkeepers on Their Team?
Bookkeepers are generally graduates who have considerable experience in the industry, while accountants are more often professionals with specialized qualifications such as a CPA certification. Before you decide upon an accounting and bookkeeping firm, look into the qualifications of the members on their team. More often than not, you can find them on the firm’s website itself.
In case the data isn't easily accessible, talk to the firm’s representative and inquire about how well-qualified the accountants and bookkeepers on their team are. Conduct some research on the accountants or bookkeeper yourself and look for any red flags. Another important question to consider is the experience they have. Ideally, you’ll want a professional who is familiar with your industry in general, and with your kind of business in particular.
4. Who Is the Point of Contact Between Your Business and the Accounting Firm?
In all likelihood, the accountant who takes on your case may also have other clients to handle. And in the best-case scenario, you’ll have the luxury of communicating with your accounting and bookkeeping professional directly. However, that may not always be possible. To circumvent this hassle, many firms establish a common point of contact between clients and professionals.
Find out who is to be the primary point of contact between you and the firm. Talk to this person and get to know how seasoned they are at their job. Discuss their requirements and find out how the process works. Enquire whether you should always communicate with them, or if it would be possible to communicate with the professional direction in case that’s necessary.
5. How Accessible and Responsive Is the Accounting and Bookkeeping Firm?
One of the most common issues that are frequently encountered by new businesses is delayed response from the accounting and bookkeeping firm they hire. This may spell trouble if you intend to consult them about any urgent concerns. Even if your point of contact is quick to respond, what really matters is how long it takes for the professional to reply to your query or email. So, before you settle for a particular accounting and bookkeeping firm, bring up this subject.
Ask them what their response time typically looks like. Also, inquire about alternate means of contacting them in case of any pressing queries. An alternate email or a couple of phone numbers are necessary. Having only one way to get in touch with your accountant or bookkeeper isn’t a favourable option, and if the firm in question doesn’t offer other ways to remain accessible and responsive, it may be best to look for another agency.
These are just five of many other queries you may have for an accounting and bookkeeping firm you’re interested in hiring. When it comes to forging a deal with a third-party service provider, it’s best to be well-informed. So, tell us about other questions you may have asked when you interviewed your accounting firm.