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Accounting is one of the most stressful and frustrating aspects of running a small business. Many business leaders would likely admit that it’s not the calculations themselves that are so annoying. It’s the fact that accounting is so important that one seemingly tiny mistake could put you in a world of trouble. And unless you have a natural flair for financial management, those mistakes are frighteningly easy to make. But you don’t have to possess such talents to run a successful small business. All you really have to do to keep your finances in check is find the right small business accountant. This is a major step for a young business, partially because it takes a huge responsibility off your shoulders.

Your accountant will tell you how much money you can spend and when you should spend it, which creates a realistic timeline for that massive investment you’ve been waiting for. If a business loan is on the horizon, you’ll know exactly how much to ask for and what kind of terms would be most beneficial for your cash flow scenario.

Here are four tips for choosing the right small business accountant:

1. Think Twice Before Hiring A Spouse Or Friend

It’s not uncommon for small business leaders to put spouses, friends, or relatives in charge of their books. Yes, this is much cheaper than hiring a professional, and you already know the individual can be trusted. But small business accounting requires a very particular skill set. Someone who knows how to monitor debt and organize paperwork won’t necessarily be a good small business accountant. In addition to an expansive knowledge of small business tax laws and business finance laws, you need someone with experience in planning financial goals and developing spending strategies. And there’s a lot more documentation to keep track of, like bills, invoices, or proof of payments.

So, before hiring someone you already know to do your books, consider if this is truly a wise decision. There’s probably much less risk in confining this person to something more rudimentary, like payroll. Determining why you need a professional in the first place is crucial for choosing an accountant, which segues into the next section:

2. Lay Out Everything You Need Beforehand

Before starting your search, you must lay out everything you expect in a small business accountant. Chief among your requirements will likely be trust, which makes sense due to the sensitivity of the information at hand. You are right to feel nervous about handing this information to a complete stranger. If you don’t feel this hesitation, you might end up hiring the wrong person just to get this process over with. Different accountants have experience in different areas. To determine what kind of accountant you need, think about what this person’s primary responsibilities will be, or which problems you’d like this person to spend the most time solving.

For example, your company might be looking to reduce wasteful spending or improve structure. Accountants can also develop a plan in the event that the business fails to meet its revenue goals on time or a sudden crisis compromises the majority of your operational budget.

3. Even A Temporary Accountant Can Be A Huge Help

Younger or smaller business might not have the funds to hire a full-time accountant. The business might be highly seasonal, so it wouldn’t make sense to keep an accountant on staff for 12 months a year. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire an accountant at all. A temporary or part-time accountant could still be extremely beneficial, especially for the busy season. Some businesses hire accountants on an as-needed basis since it allows them to gradually expand the accountant’s role as the business grows.

A major turning point of this process may be deciding whether to work with an accounting firm or hire an in-house employee. Though there are smaller firms with lower fees and personable staff, they are often paid by the hour. These fees can get very high for a growing business, so it is typically recommended to choose an in-house accountant.

4. Is The Accountant Familiar With Small Business Loans?

The increasing accessibility of small business loans is another factor to keep in mind during your search. Thanks to companies like United Capital Source, younger companies are free to compose and carry out business plans that revolve around business term loans, SBA loans, business lines of credit and other business financing programs. Your desired accountant should therefore be familiar with the modern business financing industry and know what kind of offers to avoid. Choosing the right program from the right business lender could be the most important decision you’ve made in your career thus far.

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