How to Choose an Accounting Firm (or Bodyguard) for Your Company’s Needs - By Edward M. Polansky, CPA
Elvis Presley was once said “I have no use for bodyguards, but I have very specific use for two highly trained certified public accountants.” Now it probably can be safely said that not everyone had the same needs as Elvis Presley, but many companies have a need for highly trained certified public accountants just like the King of Rock and Roll.
So if you represent one of those companies contemplating the need to hire a good outside accountant, ask yourself the following questions.
How do I choose the right accounting firm for my company?
First, consider a Certified Public Accounting firm. CPAs have obtained their certification only after a lengthy process. The CPA must have attained a college accounting degree (including advanced post under-graduate course work), passed a rigorous four-part examination, worked for a minimum period of time under the supervision of another CPA, and licensed by the appropriate State Board of Public Accounting. The CPA is governed by a strict code of professional ethics and a State governing Board.
Second, seek a firm that can provide the services that your company needs now, and in the future. Not every CPA or firm has the capability or experience to provide a wide range of services to meet not only today’s needs, but future needs as well.
What are the most important attributes in a firm or accountant?
The CPA profession is built on foundation of competence, integrity, and objectivity. Along with those characteristics, the best accounting firm is one that combines those values with the necessary technical skills and experience to provide services to manage the many financial aspects of a company. The CPA should be able to help you determine what your company’s financial goals and objectives are, help monitor, evaluate and interpret the results. The best approach is to take a broad holistic view of the company, the business, the owner, and the employees. Therefore a CPA firm that can understand your complete business model will be more suitable than one that limits their scope.
How important is industry-specific experience?
Many businesses have unique issues due the nature of their operations, their environment, and a host of other factors. Therefore, it is imperative to seek advisors, including CPAs, who understand and know your industry. Specific lines of business (manufacturing, for example) require industry-related knowledge and experience to be able to adequately deal with the particular aspects of the business.
How can a business know the right size firm to match its needs?
Obviously, this is a subjective determination and requires interviewing the prospective firm to learn their credentials. Compare your alternatives, and determine which firm most closely meets the company’s current and future needs. Most accounting firms welcome the opportunity to visit with prospective clients to discuss their service capabilities. Their fees for services will depend on the complexity of your operations, the number of entities involved, the ownership, the needs of creditors, and so on. All of these matters should be discussed and agreed to prior to engaging the CPA.
Choosing a CPA firm may be very much like choosing a bodyguard, even if Elvis didn’t need one. In other words, you want a professional with significant experience and skill, one you can trust, one that will stand by you in an emergency, and one that will provide the service you need when you need it.
Edward M. Polansky, CPA, PFS, is the San Antonio executive partner at Weaver and Tidwell, LLP. With offices in San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Austin, Weaver and Tidwell is ranked the largest independent certified public accounting firm in the Southwest by Practical Accountant. Polansky can be contacted at (210) 737-1042. You may learn more about Weaver and Tidwell by visiting www.weaverandtidwell.com.