In Pursuit of Profit
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No matter what the specific scenario is, they always come to us with the same two pain points: cost and fear of making a mistake.
Every decision-maker we talk to is juggling concerns around price (“How much will accounting services cost?” and “Is there room in the budget for outsourced accounting?”) and purchase anxiety (“How do I know what to look for in an accounting company?” and “What if I chose the wrong accounting provider?”) Unfortunately, sometimes we see these concerns derail the research process and the organization chooses to take the “I’ll do nothing for now” approach. Trust us when we say that is never the right solution! If you were at the point of looking for outsourced accounting and bookkeeping services, there was a reason why and that reason will not simply disappear because you feel overwhelmed by your options.
If your team is stretched too thin to keep up, does not have the experience needed to do a good job, or has a new situation that they need help with (like an expansion or audit), you need to get someone in to help right away. So, let’s discuss what you should be on the lookout for and how to know when you find it:
Experience & Qualifications
The most important thing to look for in an accounting provider is experience. Anyone you use should have the right educational background and skills to do the job effectively. This may mean an accounting degree, industry certification, and/or relevant experience at another employer but it should always include current knowledge of US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles).
Some business owners believe that they need to find a CPA to get this level of experience. However, having a CPA certification does not guarantee that you are going to get someone with additional experience on top of what a corporate accountant can provide. Passing the CPA exam means an accountant has undergone rigorous testing around public accounting procedures. Therefore, CPAs are clearly accomplished professionals with a strong focus on a particular facet of an organization’s accounting and reporting needs. However, this may not be the only area where your company should be looking for demonstrated expertise. It is important to look for experience across all areas of accounting if you can, including real-world experience in similar or adjacent roles to the one that you need to fill. So, before you highlight having a CPA license as a main criterion for an accountant that is going to be doing work for you, understand whether you really need the focused expertise that an accounting firm employing all CPAs will add. Unless you are required to have a CPA audit your financials for investor agreements or compliance reasons, you can likely get a similar level of experience by hiring a company that employes seasoned accountants without those added initials after their names.
Depending on your specific business needs, you may also want to find someone with prior industry experience, although this is not always necessary. Industries with unique accounting needs (like financial services, healthcare, software, construction, and real estate) will likely benefit from finding someone with industry experience to ensure that their complexities are handled appropriately.
But regardless of whether you feel you need someone with industry experience or not, the company you hire should be able to scale their offerings with your growth. Look for an accounting company that transition from part-time (fractional) work into a full-time role when you need it, or even help you hire someone internally if you decide you would like to go down that path once your company is growing more significantly.
Reputation & Protection
The accounting provider you choose should have a good reputation as evidenced through satisfied current and past clients. They should feature real testimonials that highlight the kind of value they can add to the companies they work with as well as demonstrate good customer service when you contact them by phone or email.
To help keep that reputation, they should always stand by their work. For instance, at ASP our consultants are covered by professional liability and cyber liability insurance to protect the work that they do. Utilizing these types of safeguards indicates that they are legitimate professionals that are willing to invest in their own work, not some fly-by-night operation. Carrying these kinds of insurance protects not only the accounting consultants themselves but also their clients against financial loss and harm that can arise from an error or omission in the course of the work they are doing.
Location & Communication
Right now, finding an outsourced accounting provider with accountants that are willing to work on-site is either going to cost you more or take longer to find – or both! Across the industry it is getting increasingly difficult to find accountants at all levels that are willing to come into the office. If you are looking for someone to work on-site ask yourself if you really need that. Is there a true business case to be made for on-site or hybrid work versus fully remote, or are you willing to compromise?
With today’s wide array of tools to facilitate real-time communication and collaborative remote work being on-site is often not necessary. Accountants are just as accessible from home or another location as they would be in the office and proper cyber security measures can effectively mitigate risk. As a result, the accountant you are working with should be just as accessible from another location as they would be in the office. If you find that the company you are using is not keeping up with current tools or the technology needed to be responsive to your needs during the research process, keep looking!
When you need an accounting company that ticks all the boxes, please reach out to us! We have a team of US-based accountants and bookkeepers ready to handle your part-time, interim, and project-based accounting work. We can do as much or as little work as you need and are familiar with a variety of accounting software systems. Find out why we are a leading provider of outsourced accounting services for small and mid-sized companies.