How to Hire the Right Accountant for Your Business

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Keeping healthy financials is one of the most important responsibilities for any business. Every cent of revenue needs to be accounted for, bills and payroll have to be paid on time and tax responsibilities need to be met.

These tasks fall on the shoulders of the company’s accountant – or chief financial officer (CFO) or controller depending on the business’s organizational structure and the specific responsibilities of the role. In other cases, these responsibilities are outsourced to an accounting firm.

As a fresh year begins and tax season takes off, many business owners have the bottom line on their mind. In this article, we’ll cover how your company can find the right accountant for the job.

What to look for when hiring an accountant

If your company has the funds and is positioned for strong business growth, it makes a lot of sense to bring on a full-time financial professional. You’ll have the peace of mind that a trained professional is keeping on eye on your company’s numbers at all times.

If your company isn’t ready to hire a new employee, then you should consider partnering with an external accounting firm. They’ll be able to manage the same financial tasks as an in-house accountant at a fraction of the cost. Regardless of which is right for your business, let’s cover what traits you should look for.

An all-encompassing financial professional

Assuming you’re hiring your first staff accountant – and not adding a new position to the team – you should seek a jack/jill of all trades. Instead of hiring someone who specializes in bookkeeping or payroll, you’ll need a person or firm that can do it all. Here are the common skills an all-encompassing accounting professional should have:

  • Financial recordkeeping – They should be able to maintain your company’s general ledger on a regular basis.
  • Financial advising – Using the general ledger, they should be able to notice trends and opportunities for financial growth.
  • Payroll – They’ll need to ensure every employee is paid correctly and on time.
  • Bill payment – They’ll be responsible for managing expenses and paying bills.
  • Tax preparation – They’ll need to correctly pay your business taxes on time and maximize deductions throughout the year.

These are only a few of the high-level responsibilities of an accountant. Depending on your business, there are likely other qualifications you’ll need in a future hire or partner.

Able to communicate the numbers

Communication is key in any job but it’s especially important for someone who solely manages a company’s financials. The nuances of accounting are complicated and difficult to grasp for anyone who isn’t a trained accounting professional. Many accountants generate reports and graphs but the best ones can present their meaning in layman’s terms.

Natalie Hoffman, President of Payroll Services Company, HKP, believes this an especially important trait. “As stewards of crucial components of your business operation, your accountant should be able to communicate issues, strong points and weaknesses, as well as solutions to you and your stakeholders so a resolution can be found,” she says.

You should seek an accountant who can meet with your leadership team and outline problems and opportunities in a way that everyone can understand. That way the team can discuss the best course of action and make the right decision.

An understanding of your industry and business type

You should not only seek candidates who are well versed in all aspects of accounting. You should also look for a financial professional who has the right background for your business.

An ideal accountant will be familiar with how your specific company operates. They should be experienced working with companies in your industry so they understand the common costs and operating procedures. The right background will be especially beneficial for tax preparation.

Additionally, you should seek a financial professional who has experience working with businesses at a similar stage as your company. They should know what opportunities and challenges lie ahead so nothing catches them off guard as the company grows.

An expert in the latest technology

Like most professions, accounting is currently being transformed by new technology. Modern software helps accounting professionals efficiently accomplish tasks while giving them deeper insight into their company or client’s financials.

“Your bookkeeper should stay up to date with the latest office technology, and be willing to learn and embrace new technology,” says Hoffman. “The ability to learn and implement technology that will make processes easier will go a long way in the future.”

Many accountants are embracing new technology, while others continue to favor outdated solutions. When meeting with a potential accounting employee or partner, ask them what software they use, why they prefer it and how they see technology impacting the profession in the future.

Image by Volkan Olmez