Kinsey Jones Choosing an adviser of any sort is never easy.

Yes, but don’t stress about it, there’s loads of accountants to choose from!

You do need to be convinced of his or her technical competence – obviously but above all you need to ask yourself “does this person understand my needs” and “can I get on with him/her?”

It’s all about relationships – the better you get on with your accountant the better the experience and value you will enjoy.

And your expectations?  An accountant’s training is usually long, demanding and comprehensive and is a mix of academic study and on the job experience in a variety of organisations and environments.  Some choose to specialise, others stay general.  Make sure you get the right accountant for the tasks you need help with.

Do you want your accountant just to deal with end of year stuff like preparing accounts, calculating the tax and making the various submissions to HMRC and Companies House and generally ensuring that you do not receive penalties from HMRC or Companies House?  Or do you want a year-round service which might include the preparation of regular Management Accounts and the preparation of forecasts/financial plans to ensure that you’re heading in the right direction, financially.

Decide what you’re good at and can do yourself and thereby save money.  Use your accountant to help you with those areas where you are less confident.  A good accountant should deliver peace of mind.

On fees – think for a moment of your business as a car!  Why take your car to the garage?  Firstly to ensure it’s safe (i.e. you’re reducing risks), secondly you want to ensure it’s running properly, efficiently and economically, thirdly to fix something that’s broken and finally to ensure you keep within the law.  Notice the similarity?  You pay your garage/mechanic the rate for the job and accountants are no different.  Expect to pay a fair rate for the work involved and taking into account the accountant’s qualification and experience in the area in which you need help.  If you get a deal which is too heavily discounted you’ll never be top of your accountant’s priority list.  The best way to minimise your accountant’s fees is to do what you can to make the job more straight forward – keep tidy, complete up-to-date records and respond quickly to requests for information from him/her.

A final question you might like to ask yourself is “is this accountant a good manager, is he/she organised, does he/she appear to look after his own business well and does he/she have the resources to deal with my needs quickly and efficiently?”  “Can he/she make time for me when I have a pressing need or is he/she always too busy?”  “Is he interested in me and my business?”

Accountants are often described as trusted advisers.  But that trust has to be earned.  You will get the best from your accountant if you value their opinion and act on it.

So, it’s easy to find and appoint an accountant but the hard bit is choosing the right one for your needs.  There has to be a match otherwise it will be a short-relationship.

Doug Kinsey is director of Kinsey Jones Chartered Accountants of Gosforth (www.kinseyjones.com) and is always happy to chat!