How to find the perfect accountant: a quick guide

Excuse the comparison, but it’s true: choosing the right accountant is like choosing the right babysitter – they’re professionals trusted to take care of your baby.

Choosing well results in peace of mind; choosing poorly could mean financial disaster.

Yet if you have recently trawled through Google search results looking for a new accountant, there’s a good chance you were overstimulated to the point of choice fatigue.

To help narrow down candidates is William Neil, founder of Accounting Advocate, a service that matches businesses with the ideal accountant.

“You need a framework of questions and experience to determine whether they are appropriate,” says Neil.

If you’re a small business owner searching for an accountant, here’s what to look for:

1. Competence

This is a no brainer – finding someone competent should rank highest on your list.

This means whoever they are, your accountant can handle the complete array of compliance-related issues in your business.

That means tax returns, BAS statements, the rudiments.

The easiest way to check for competence is to look for memberships of accounting bodies, says Neil, with the two main ones being CPA Australia and ACCA. “These accreditations should be very visible on their sites.”


find a certified professional accountant

You’ll feel safer in the hands of a certified professional.

2. Self-marketing

Spend some time browsing the prospective accountant’s site (and storefront), and check to see if they’re marketing their own business well.

This is often a fair indicator of the impact they can make on your business, Neil explains.

If the paint is peeling and the sign is falling down, beware.

Some sole-trading accountants might not be too well-versed in the best methods of telling their company story, however there’s a big difference between a simple number-cruncher and a financial virtuoso who will deliver value to your business.

You definitely want the latter.


3. Business expertise

Do they understand your niche and what your business is doing?

You want your dream accountant to not only understand your vision for the company, but also have a good working knowledge of other businesses similar to yours.

Ultimately, you need to know whether they can be a good business advisor, says Neil.

If you want a number-cruncher, they’re a dime-a-dozen, but you want someone who can really understand your business and build revenue.

Improving commercial outcomes is what really sets different accountants apart, Neil argues.


Accountant listening to small business owner's needs

You’ll want a specialist that will listen to your needs.

“If you’re a business owner, you need someone who can help you optimise your business; who can act as a coach and actually improve what your business is doing.”

Not every accountant does this well and unfortunately this is a more ephemeral skill than others and much harder to prove.

Revealing their track record of business expertise depends on the three R’s: research, research and research.

But it pays off, and with persistence, you’ll find someone dedicated to growing your business.

From performing fundamental compliance work to offering business expertise and experience, there’s no reason your accountant shouldn’t be exactly what you need.