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How to Spot the Wrong Accountant for Your Business

By Russell Smith, Last Modified
Mar 21, 2019
> Finance

Success in the corporate environment comes down to a variety of factors, from determination and passion to bold ideas and fresh, innovative thinking. But behind the exciting concepts and the new-generation branding, the foundations of your business must be firm and stand resolute.

One such element of your company that must not falter on the path to success is financial stability. Keeping the numbers in check, the books balanced and budgets above the line is utterly essential, which is why so many businesses opt for professional support from accountancy experts.

But, like most things in life, accountants are unique. Each firm or contractor you come across will do things differently. The result is that some will offer you better financial support than others. As a business, naturally you only want the very best service you can find. This raises the question, how do you spot the wrong accountant for your company?

Here are four signs the accountant you're dealing with isn't the right one for your business.

Editor's note: Need accounting software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.


1. They don't ask questions.

Be immediately suspicious of an accountancy firm that doesn't ask for details of your business upon initial inquiry. This will involve a sales representative or an accountant themselves asking about these aspects of your business:

  • Turnover

  • Staff figures

  • Industry

  • Growth expectations

  • Current expenditure

  • Business age

  • Outstanding debts

An accountant needs to know more about your business in order to offer you a bespoke and, most importantly, useful service. If they aren't trying to find out further details about your business and are more interested in the fact that you are willing to pay them for their financial support, they won't be overly concerned about offering services that are optimized for your business's particular needs.

2. They don't use new technology.

There was a time when working with pen and paper and submitting postal tax returns were the height of accounting technology. The key word here is "was." Accountancy very much occupies the digital space in 2019. Lots of firms now offer online accounting services and remote work, for example, with practices built entirely around cloud-based software. This isn't essential, though, and many accountants still opt for local, face-to-face practices.

What is essential, however, is an ability to work with new technology. Specialist software and tools have been developed to streamline the working life of an accountant, ensure greater accuracy of results and ensure more versatile support. This means better financial management for your business. Accountants using outdated processes aren't going to offer you this.

The best way to find out if your prospective accountant is up to date on technology is to ask them about the systems they use. If you aren't in communication with an accountant yet and are searching around, another good measure of their technological awareness is their website. An old-fashioned, worn-down design that appears to be unloved and built in the 1990s is a good indicator that the firm isn't keeping up with modern practices as best it could.

3. They don't have a specialty.

Everyone should have a target customer, but some businesses need to go more niche than others. In accounting, finding your niche is of the utmost importance. Financial pressures, responsibilities and goals fluctuate depending on business size, industry, objectives and more. Providing generic accountancy services for all types of businesses means a firm doesn't have a targeted method of operating, which can result in inefficient practices. Accountants who specialize in a particular area are more proficient in their ability to support a brand working in that niche.

Let's imagine that your business is a local bakery and you opt to work with a firm that has been taking on SMEs in the food industry for 10 years. They're going to know a lot more about the best way to support your financial success than an accountancy firm that has never worked within the sector, often working instead with larger corporations in sales and marketing.

Practice makes perfect. Specialisms support more effective practices and result in the evolution of targeted expertise. This is expertise that your business can benefit from. A generalized accountancy firm might offer you a reasonable service, but it won't offer you the very best for your money. For that, you need a firm that specializes in you, whether that's a two-person partnership, a self-employed plumber or a multinational corporation.

4. Their online reviews are poor.

It may seem obvious, but if you meet an accountant at a conference or find them outside of a Google search, you could miss online reviews. Customer testimonials on their website are one thing, and guarantees from the owner are another, but nothing beats unabridged feedback from genuine consumers.

Before signing on with any accountant or firm, read their reviews. Do your research into their brand and dig up all the information you can. Try to get a broad range of feedback from different review platforms and see what other people are saying.

For small and local accountancy firms, getting feedback outside of reviews might be difficult, but if the brand is large enough, you can also take to business or financial forums to directly ask the online community questions about their experiences with the company.

Russell Smith
Russell Smith
See Russell Smith's Profile
My aim is to help our clients understand their numbers, change lives through financial education and build the best firm of chartered accountants in the UK. With close to 300 clients I enjoy working with a variety of different businesses and we have a real specialism within the creative and health sectors. Over the last 12 years I have been able to help the businesses we work with in every matter concerning their finances from multimillion pound deals to helping clients save hundreds of thousands of pounds in tax. Our whole business is shaped to ensure we give our clients the best advice, assistance and services possible - we’re not just here to do annual accounts and tax returns - what drives us is helping our clients to understand their numbers, achieve their business goals and ultimately – make more profit! I love working with people and have a fantastic team who help our clients get on top of their finances, cash and profits so there is more money left over for them and their families. We even have a Tax and Accountancy Emergency Helpline so our clients can reach us at any time 24/7 365 days a year and never lose sleep over their numbers again! If you'd like to arrange a free meeting with me to review your business you'll get: • A check on whether all your accounts and tax returns are up to date • A healthcheck on whether you are paying too much tax • A business review to see where you can increase your profits I also write a regular blog full of tax saving tips and advice on growing your profits and understanding your numbers. KNOW your numbers + TRACK your numbers = GROW your profits We love numbers!
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