How to Hire a Professional Accountant – it doesn’t have to be us ;)

Frustrated man shouting into phone

My “5 Thought’s” Process of Hiring a Professional Accountant (or any kind of professional…really)

If you’re a business owner and think accountants are just number pushers or professionals who you see at year end for taxes, READ ON!

If the opening sentences mirror your thoughts, it’s time you review your working relationship with your accountant. I’m NOT saying you need to switch accountants but really, think about why you have one, follow the process below and you might have a greatly rejuvenated, high value relationship instead.

I often see potential clients who feel price is the most important deciding factor to which accountant they work with – this is probably the worst way to assess things. In fact, the question of “how much do you charge” usually happens before I even have an opportunity to learn their names. 🤦‍♂️

Here is my “5 Thoughts” process to hire a professional accountant* and to get tremendous value out your working relationship with a professional accountant: (*this really could work for any other professional you’re considering to hire actually 👍)


1. Establish FIRST, what YOU are trying to achieve.

For example, are you trying to figure out if your business is profitable? Do you need specific reports that your current accounting system can’t provide? Do you need help with pricing your products and services to grow bigger? Are you trying to take your company public by an IPO? Do you need help with all the items mentioned? Write down all these ideas – no matter how many or how small.


2. Next, think about how YOU want spend your time.

I often see already very busy entrepreneurs elect to personally take on bookkeeping and accounting to save on costs. But really, you have to consider if you’re really spending your time wisely.

First, your time is better spent doing what you actually like. More so, you’re in business, so more often than not, using your valuable time to coach and train your team, spending more time on your existing clients and even finding more clients would probably get you better results than wearing yet another hat in your business. As you may have heard before – try to work “on” your business, not add roles that further trap you “in” your business.


3. Don’t just take the accountant’s “pitch”.

Actually interview potential accountants like you’re about to hire a new key employee or an executive into your business. Do they have references, examples or client testimonials?

Accountants have different areas of interests, practice and expertise. As such, accountants have different specialties too. So it’s only natural they also have different rates and methods of charging for their services. See now, how just looking at price across the board would wouldn’t make sense?

Ask them questions about their experience and how they work. For example, how do they communicate with you? How can they deliver the solutions you’re looking for in Step 1. Does this accountant enable you to spend your time like you want to in Step 2?


4. Do you like this person?

Continuing with the “employee interview process” here, take a moment, just think if you’re actually enjoying this meeting or phone call with them? Do you have common values? Are they excited about your business? Is this someone you would even enjoy forming a working relationship with?

Conversely, the accountant is human too, are they also enjoying their conversation with you?  You’re looking for some chemistry to build from. You have complete freedom to choose who to work with, so don’t choose someone that aggravates you. It’s difficult to find value from someone that you dread to hear from, much less work with.

You might think it’s strange, but think about all the people you work with regularly right now.  There is probably someone you chose for a reason,  and yet really not enjoy to working with. It’s puzzling how often I see this actually happen. Even if you only end seeing your accountant just once a year, seriously – work with someone you actually enjoy working with.


5. Don’t avoid discussing about price.

Don’t over or under emphasize price – discuss it openly. Once again, continuing with the idea of how hiring an accountant is like “hiring a fantastic employee”, you probably shouldn’t hire an employee with just a “name your salary” blank cheque. You would also quickly realize that great people are hard to find and that your company needs to also offer a competitive salary too.  This is the same with accounting fees.

As such, if the accountant you’re considering meets all the other requirements mentioned, and their price is in your budget then perfect! If they charge a little more than you want to spend, discuss openly if there is a way to still work together WITHOUT critical compromises that would make meeting Step 1 and Step 2 impossible.

If you fall off your chair after hearing the price 😲, then realize that you might be just too far apart at this moment to work together.  It’s likely not a good fit, even if they are just “perfect” in every other way discussed.

If they charge way less than what you expected, don’t do the celebration dance yet. Double check again, if they are actually as experienced as they claim and make sure they clearly understand your expectations from Steps 1 and Step 2 again. If it all checks out, wonderful!


Monitor how things are going.

The only constant in life is change. A great working relationship is one where the communication keeps going with your accountant.  Take moments to reflect on how the work and how the relationship in general is going – the very purpose of this insanely long post!

If things aren’t going well, bring it up candidly. There is nothing worse than letting a situation play out in your imagination to something larger than it really is. Skip the anxiety, communicate openly and candidly.

This is how the process of hiring your potential accountant should go. Finding a professional accountant that you enjoy working with, who has the right knowledge, experience and time to solve your problems, with fees within your budget – is totally possible and realistic to do.

I hope you find tremendous value in this post too.

Until next time – “WORK hard, KNOW your numbers, and STAY tenacious!”


#accounting #clients #pricing #business #entrepreneurship

Erich Ly, CPA, CGA
Erich Ly, CPA CGA

Erich Ly is a Canadian Charted Professional Accountant focused on working with amazing entrepreneurs "to build a better business and live a better life."
He's also the President of Tran & Associates, CPA and writes about accounting, entrepreneurship, technology in the office and loves anything related to digital cameras.
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