Count On the Right Accountant

It's been said that accountants simply report what's happened in a business. And while accurate reporting is a focal point of an accountant's skill set — being required by the Canada Revenue Agency — the best accountants do far more than simply report financial history.

This pedigree not only present an accurate picture of an organization's financial position, accountants are also able to work with management, creating collaborative models for problem solving, analyzing sales metrics, developing pro formas for decision making, and much, much more.

Deciding which accountant would best serve your company's needs from the wide array of firms available can be a daunting dilemma. Should you choose a sole practitioner? Should you choose a big national firm?

Here are a few things you should consider:

Utility —­ Maybe you only need an accountant to prepare your tax return and compile end-of-year financial statements. But perhaps you could use someone who can offer financial or retirement planning advice. Or maybe you need specific advice about dealing with international currency.

Know what your business's needs are. That way, you know exactly what you're looking for.

Industry expertise — It's important to ask yourself a deceptively simple question: "Does my accountant understand what I do?" You shouldn't have to train your accountant on your business.

If familiar with your industry, your accountant can be a wealth of advice and planning. And if you are unable to find an accountant who specializes in your field specifically, look for expertise in a similar industry. You can also ask if the accounting firm you're scouting will partner with other firms when necessary. That way, they can turn to specialists to resolve specific issues outside their experience.

Size — When it comes to the size of the firm you'll be using, it's a decision similar to the choice between a university and a city college. A big, national firm with offices in several cities will be attractive and prestigious to some businesses, but the class size (number of clients) will be overwhelming, and it may be difficult to get real face time in a crunch. Others businesses may feel they'll benefit by partnering with smaller accounting firm that can answer questions right away when necessary.

Even if you do decide to go with a large firm, they may sometimes contract out their work to other firms. Know who is looking after your account so you can avoid paying the middleman.

Familiarity —The longer you're able to work with your accountant, the more familiar she or he will be with your business. This has several benefits, including their being able to anticipate necessary changes to your accounting, their following new laws that will affect your business, and discovering small tricks in your industry that other accountants wouldn't be aware of. There's also the chance that the more familiar the accountant is with your business, the less time it will take them to compile your annual files, costing you less in the end.

Look for more than just the bare minimum from your accountant. A good accountant will not just report on your money, but help you save it too.

Tyler Vreeling