Think of some of the most valued professional service relationships you maintain as an entrepreneur. Perhaps a key consulting partnership comes to mind. Your lawyer is likely also an indispensable part of your extended team. On the personal finance side, maybe you’d add your financial advisor to that list.
But one of the most vital service providers you’ll engage in the course of managing your business is an experienced chartered professional accountant.
They’re the ones who provide everything from financial to operational advice to guide the growth of your organization, or potentially keep it on the rails in tough times. While a good accounting firm should have basic competency in areas such as assurance, financial advisory, and tax, not all are created equal. Not even close. As we head into the New Year, take the opportunity to evaluate the service you’re receiving from your accountant and determine whether it hits the mark.
HERE ARE SOME KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN MAKING THAT EVALUATION, OR BEFORE ENGAGING WITH A NEW FIRM:
Do they offer comprehensive tax services?
Any accountant can prepare a tax return, but there are many whose expertise is limited to the very basics. Engage a firm with a full tax department—or access to one—that has a fulsome understanding of Canadian tax law and the ability to deliver comprehensive corporate tax planning, while managing often complex interactions with the Canada Revenue Agency. The latter is a particular asset at a time when CRA scrutiny has reached unprecedented levels.
Do they embrace an integrated approach?
As an entrepreneur, your personal and corporate accounting needs are inherently tied. Look for an accounting firm with the experience and skillset to manage both, including key considerations such as estate planning.
Are they growth-minded?
Leading entrepreneurs want advice in areas such as risk management and compliance, along with insights to help them predict and capitalize on key business opportunities—think potential mergers and acquisitions, as one example. Your accounting firm should have its finger on the pulse of your business, should be helping you set a strategic growth plan and should be providing proactive insights to fuel that growth.
Do they have international reach?
If your growth ambitions are (or could one day be) global, engaging an accounting firm with an international scope is a crucial asset. That expertise will not only help ensure full tax and legislative compliance and reduce unnecessary costs when doing business abroad but will help you avoid the many pitfalls of overseas expansion.
Are they responsive and do they listen?
Finding a custom-centric accounting firm that’s both attentive to your needs and asks the necessary questions to proactively service your growth objectives can be a challenge. Before engaging with a firm, learn more about their internal structure, staff headcount, customer base, and client service approach. If they seem too busy or disengaged to ask the right questions, they’re probably not the right fit.
Also, do you like them? It’s one thing to work with a firm that has professional competency, but if you can’t bear to discuss your business and personal financial details with their professionals, the relationship won’t last. You don’t need to be best friends, but finding common ground—where the service provider understands your expectations, and you accept and apply (at least most) of their sound advice—is crucial.
Take your time when selecting an accounting firm to handle your affairs. It could be the most important decision you make this year.