Building a strong team of advisors for your business is an essential element of your success and a good accountant needs to be one of those people. Your accountant will help to manage your business’ transactions and record keeping, handle your tax filings, and prepare your business for an audit if necessary. Finding the right accountant, however, can be easier said than done. Not all accountants specialize in the needs of each and every business, so you need to be careful when making your choice. Your needs, their expertise, and the chemistry between the two are all important considerations to take into account when making your choice.

Here are some important steps to take when searching for the right accountant.

Identify Your Needs

Each and every business has a different need for an accountant. Depending on your legal business entity status, you may need personal and business advice. Some entrepreneurs manage their own transactions and record keeping, while others outsource this task. Try to identify the specific responsibilities you will expect your accountant to handle and which you want to take care of. There are two big areas you want to focus on when considering your needs - daily transactions and taxes (this includes a potential audit).

Ask Around

A referral is usually the best way to find a good accountant. If you already have a lawyer, start with them and ask who they know. It can also be very helpful to have a lawyer and accountant that are used to working together and since many business lawyers work frequently with accountants, they will have some good connections. You can also ask friends and family or other business owners who they use, as well as your banker or insurance broker.

Build a List of Candidates

If you do not have any referrals to consider (or want to increase your pool of candidates), you should do some research to build a short list of potential accountants. It is important to make sure they are properly licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) if you are operating in the U.S. (you can verify that online) or a Certified General Accountant (CGA) if you are operating in Canada. If you want a list of CPAs or CGAs in your area, you can utilize your specific state’s Society of CPAs or province’s CGA Association. You can also look to your own industry associations or groups for recommendations. You do not need an extensive list of candidates, but you do want to make sure you have a few to compare and choose from.

Interview Them

Once you have your list of candidates, it is time to interview them to find the right fit. A good accountant will save your business lots of time and money, so it is well worth your time to speak with each of them. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time so that you find out everything you need to know. You will want to ask about their credentials, their familiarity with your type of company, whether they are aggressive or conservative with tax filings, and how often you will be speaking to them. You will also want to know what and how they charge, as well as which specific tasks you will be responsible for.

Don’t Settle

Once you’ve picked your accountant, don’t feel like you are bound to them forever. If your business needs change or you are not happy with their performance or fees, you can (and should) switch accountants. This person plays an integral role in the financial performance of your business so you want to make sure they are the perfect fit.

Picking the right accountant will work wonders for your business, so don’t settle for someone who doesn’t feel right. Know what you need, get good advice, and interview your candidates thoroughly. As your company grows, so will your team and you will want to make sure you find strong players from the very beginning.