The right CPA can mean the difference between success and failure in your business. A relationship with a good accountant can save you money and keep you compliant. A relationship with a great accountant does all those things and gives you focused, professional responsiveness from an advisor who is on your team all year long.
It’s the great relationships that can mean the difference between sustainability and real success for your business.
It’s important to take the time to gauge whether your CPA is good or great. To help you with this assessment, we’ve put together a few key considerations. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, it’s a signal that you should probably take the time to look for a new CPA.
Red Flag #1 – You don’t have a set point of contact.
Does your account keep changing hands inside the CPA firm? The reasons why could vary. Regardless of the size firm, unstable account management could signal a lack of internal stability and/or high employee turnover resulting in having to ‘educate’ new staff members, which is time-consuming for you and increases the chance that costly mistakes could happen.
The Solution: Choose a CPA firm that provides a consistent point of contact with an attentive team that cares enough to stay connected, ask difficult questions and nurture a productive relationship.
Red Flag #2 – You can count on hearing from your CPA during tax season (but that’s about it).
Seasonal operation indicates that your firm’s core competency may be tax preparation. While that works for some businesses and owners, settling for compliance could end up costing you in the long run.
The Solution: Choose a CPA firm that has a full time, year-round staff with extensive expertise in a broad range of financial areas including tax planning. They should be knowledgeable about not only tax preparation, but also the economic climate, business environment, tax law, accounting standards and regulations.
Red Flag #3 – Your CPA is a jack-of-all-trades.
If your CPA offers multiple auxiliary services (e.g., legal services, investment services or insurance products), this might be a sign of conflicting interests that could produce biased or self-serving advice. Or it may be that they are expert in many, master of none.
The Solution: Look for an advisory team consisting of an Attorney, CPA, Investment Advisor and Banker that can work together to help you limit your financial exposure and reach your goals.
Red Flag #4 – You hesitate to ask questions and are constantly checking in to get your projects completed on time.
If you hesitate to ask questions because the responses you get make you feel uncomfortable, that is a sure sign that something is wrong. This could be a sign of poor communication or incompetence on their end.
The Solution: You should view your CPA firm as an extension of your team and expect that they will provide direct answers when you have questions. Their responses should be specific to your circumstances and have your goals in mind.
As you think about these questions, consider the answers carefully. Ask your (current or prospective) CPA about their client retention rates. Higher retention rates imply great service, as well as an ability to evolve with clients as they change. SJG has been recognized as a Five Star Professional in the category of Top Accounting & Estate Planning Professionals in Atlanta.
Remember, the most important thing your CPA does for you is to support the financial cornerstones of your business. That’s a collaborative, ongoing effort that should flex and change as internal and external factors impact your needs. Take the time to ask these questions. Watch for red flags, be your own biggest advocate – and expect your CPA to be your advocate as well.