BDO Australia answers the question: 'How do I find the best accountant?'

12 July 2018 5 min. read
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Finding an accountant that fits with the culture of a business can be as challenging as running a business itself. There needs to be a solid connection between management and an accountant to ensure that advice flows freely and is not encumbered by any issues of trust, miscommunication or a general lack of enthusiasm. Experts at BDO Australia provides insight on what makes a good match.

The process of finding an accountant or swapping accountants for SME business owners is one of the fundamental pillars of running a successful business. Accountants are, or at least should be there for more than solely lodging tax returns explains BDO Australia. “Some of the most common complaints SMEs make about their accountants are not about price but about value. They may not provide enough value based on the business’ needs and give advice which is not forward thinking enough to help them make effective decisions.”

Thinking ahead with the trajectory of SMEs, anticipating growth and advising are core responsibilities that will serve a clients specific needs. These are what make accounting experiences excellent. Ultimately, if there is a lack of oversight, insight or advice then how can an accountant “help you get what you want out of your business?” The experts at BDO share some basic tips on figuring out if an accountant is the right fit before they get into the nitty gritty stuff.

Some of the most basic and yet at times overlooked bits of advice that the accountancy and consulting firm share are to do with location, communication and confidence. The firm raises the question; “Can you get hold of your accountant and access to advice, when and where you need it?” The answer to this simple question should be unequivocally yes and if it is not, then there is obviously an error in the relationship.

The necessity to have an accountant who listens is also paramount to ensuring efficiency and effectiveness. When choosing an account, the firm says “if you don’t feel like you’re being listened to in your first conversation, it’s likely your feelings won’t change. After your initial meeting, ask yourself ‘am I confident this adviser will help me get what I want out of my business?’”

BDO Australia answers the question ‘How do I find the best accountant for me?’

Choosing a new accountant

Whilst there may be multiple factors that will arise when deciding, BDO highlight the main external factors which depend on individual circumstances. The firm asks five questions that will help make that decision about the size of the firm, their location and specialty, the extent of their services, price and the relationship overall.

Are they a big firm or small boutique agency?

BDO believe that it’s all about the size of the company in question. Whilst larger firms have a bigger span of experience and more profound depth of expertise, small or boutiques can offer more niche services, potentially valuing the relationship due to a limited number of clients they can possibly service. “It depends. You need to know that the accounting services provider has sufficient resources to best service your needs now and into the future.”

Where are they based and what do they specialise in?

The firm contends that it is important to look beyond professionalism and but not location. As all accountants will attempt to come across as professional, understanding how they can conduct their services specific to any certain business is also important. Judging this one must look through the suit and tie and focus on the specifics of the engagement. On the other hand however, for BDO, location is something that cannot be overlooked.

“Some accountants will argue that location is less important with today’s technology and cloud based solutions which allow for online access and collaboration. However, there are simply always going to be some matters that are better dealt with face to face. Ask yourself, how could I get my accountant to meet me when and where I really need them to?”

What are the extent of their services?

“It can be hard to know every service you will need at the start of a relationship with a new accountant. It is useful to understand the wider capabilities of an accounting firm and how well they can support your business needs now and into the future.”

What do they charge?

The firm suggests that when deciding on price it is important that when choosing a potential candidate, price is not the only factor. As accounting services come in a range of shapes and sizes, price will (nearly) always be competitive and should be always evaluated through the equation of Value = Experience/Price. “As with most things, you get what you pay for. All accounting providers can give you a reasonable expectation of fees going forward. You need to ensure this is in line with your expectations and what your business can afford.

What is the relationship going to be like?

“Arguably this is the most critical of all aspects. It is vital that you feel comfortable with your new accountant and that they are a good fit for both yourself and your business. Ask yourself, did you really feel comfortable and assured when dealing with this person? While all Chartered Accountants are bound by a duty of confidentiality, it is still very important that you feel comfortable discussing what can be at times very sensitive and personal information. Trust is important to any successful accounting and SME relationship.”