3 Signs That You Have Hired the Wrong Accountant

Natalia Autenrieth In her professional lives across the United States, Natalia Autenrieth, CPA has audited Fortune 500 clients as part of a Big 4 team, built an accounting department as a controller of a large hospital, and served as a CPA consultant to municipalities. Today, Natalia coaches in the financial industry and writes about business finance, financial technology, and personal money management. Her ghost-written articles have appeared in thought leadership and expert blogs, as well as Kiplinger and Accounting Today. Read more about Natalia and her practice at www.AutenriethAdvantage.com.

3 Signs That You Have Hired the Wrong Accountant

Basic bookkeeping may be a commodity service, but there is no denying the value of working with a CPA who goes above and beyond to become a strategic partner for his small business clients. However, not every CPA is naturally a great fit for working with you. Sometimes, choosing the right professional might take more than one attempt.

Unfortunately, many small business owners experience inertia when it comes to fine-tuning their collaboration with a CPA. Some believe that there are no great accountants out there. Others stay put because they think looking for a replacement CPA would take too long or cost too much. However, in most situations those assumptions are inaccurate. Small business owners should feel empowered to search and interview until they have found the CPA that’s just right for them.

How can they know that it’s time? Here are three signs that you have hired an accountant who is the wrong choice for your business.

Hiring a Jack of All Trades When You Need Deep Expertise

It might seem like accounting and tax preparation is the same everywhere. Review bank statements, book some debits and credits, fill out a few tax forms – the basic steps look the same across industries. However, hiring a generalist is a disservice to your business. There are industry-specific tax codes and tax breaks that a Jack of all trades may not be aware of. Your accountant must be at least familiar with your industry so that he can understand the business and the technical rules that apply.

Hiring the Cheapest Accountant Available

Small businesses are often budget-minded, and for good reason – owners must be strategic and selective about where their resources will make the most impact. However, skimping on the CPA is a mistake. You may pay less in the short run thanks to a lower billing rate, but the cost of potential misdirection or mistake on your books can cost you thousands of dollars. Choose an accountant who offers a great value but don’t equate that with the lowest fee.

Your Accountant Doesn’t Communicate Well

Many small business owners believe that poor communication skills are the norm in the accounting profession. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Sure, there are poor communicators in all industries and fields of work. However, there are also fantastic accountants who can explain financial statements in a way you can understand, walk you through the impact of the latest tax law change, or hold your hand to ensure that you have the right documents for the tax returns. Don’t settle for less.

Hiring the Wrong Accountant for Your Small Business is Costly

From the potential cost in fees and penalties to correct a mistake, to the day-to-day frustration of poor communication, working with the wrong accountant hurts small business owners in many ways. One of the most unfortunate is that it does nothing to maximize the potential value that the business owner would get from working with a great CPA.

If your accountant doesn’t understand your businesses, comes with an unusually low billing rate that’s reflected in his quality of service, or doesn’t communicate well, start interviewing replacements. If you cannot say something positive about working with your accountant without adding a “but” or somehow turning it into a negative statement, you owe it to your business to look for someone great.