InHouseCFO's Small Business Blog

Choosing a Public Accountant for Your Small Business in Canada

Posted by Donald Cameron on Fri, Apr 05, 2013

A big part of running an effective small business continues to be choosing the right professionals to work on your behalf, and that includes choosing your Public Accountant. We provide an 8 point checklist to use in going through the process.

Financial Statement for small business

As Chartered Accountants providing business-oriented CFO services, we may be accused of having a slight bias, but we think that this is the most important choice that a small business in Canada needs to make in picking its technical team. They need to be able to use these technical skills not just to keep your business compliant, but to assist with how the business is run as well. An article that speaks to Accountant as a tax preparer can be found at Morningstar/Accountant. You can see, while comprehensive and relevant to this, we're speaking about more than this to be really satisfied with the value provided.

The key points for consideration in choosing Public Accountants is not dissimilar to that which we outlined in our post Choosing a Lawyer, except we find, generally speaking, that they can be better advisors than lawyers, only because lawyers have more of a transactional risk-management or adversarial mindset, so it’s often difficult to get proactive ongoing advice from them outside of legal methodologies. Public Accountants on the other hand, must be able to use their technical knowledge to assist your business in meeting its financial objectives, all the while ensuring the business is compliant with its financial reporting requirements whatever they might be.

So, your 8 point checklist for this member of the technical services team is that he or she must have:

  1. Time to provide their skills to your business;

  2. Up-to-date technical knowledge in all financial compliance related aspects applicable to your business;

  3. Experience in your business;

  4. An interest in helping you;

  5. A personality that meshes with:

    1. Your culture and style; and

    2. The desired outcome of your need to use them;

  6. References from other clients with similar technical needs;

  7. A rate structure that is market based, and meets the specific level of business complexity; and

  8. If you have taken the step and hired a part time CFO, complimentary skills to and works well with him or her:

    • To be clear the two roles are different - the CFO focuses on ways to increase your bottom line while ensuring that compliance matters are attended to; the public accountant stays up to date on all compliance matters and attends to them.

Again, this might seem like simple and obvious checklist, and it is, but again, it is very rarely, if ever followed.

Our experience has been that in almost every case where outcomes:

  1. Were disappointing;

  2. Were more costly than they needed to be;

  3. Took more of your time, energy, and emotions than should have been expected; or

  4. Took much longer than necessary to get completed;

one or more of the above checklist items were not used at the outset.

If you pick the right Public Accountant, or better yet, have us do so and manage that relationship, you will not only ensure that all of your compliance requirements are taken care of, but one who can provide technical advice that adds strength to the financial infrastructure of your business each and every day.

Tags: Picking a Professional