Small business owners around the country are collectively breathing a sigh of relief now that the Q4 filing date of September 15th has now passed! After all, bookkeeping and accounting require a lot of time and energy, especially around tax deadlines. But, that’s what your accountant is for, right? Well, assuming you have a good one, then, yes! A whopping 71 percent of small business owners use accountants to prepare their taxes.

But, it’s not enough to simply have an accountant. You have to have a good one. After all, the wrong accountant could dig you into financial holes; but the right one can help your business achieve financial stability and growth. So, don’t settle for less. Here are the qualities of a great accountant.

1. They regularly communicate with you and return your calls quickly

A good accountant will always return your calls or emails within a reasonable amount of time (often the same day or the next). They will also proactively check in periodically to see how your business is running and if you have any questions. Remember that office staff is an extension of the accountant, so anyone working in the office should provide good customer service as well.

2. They strategically plan throughout the year, not just for big deadlines

Many people are guilty of the “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it” mentality regarding their taxes. But that person shouldn’t be your accountant!

A survey of nearly 400 small businesses shows that they all share the same top complaint about their accountant: They are more reactive than proactive. A good accountant will be aware of your financial state throughout the year and take a proactive approach to adjust deductions or put away money whenever the need arises. This is called Strategic Planning and your accountant should place strong importance on this aspect of their job.

3. They show you how to budget

Do you remember that class in high school where they taught you to create a monthly budget for your personal and business finances? No? That’s because you probably didn’t have one. If you’re like most small business owners, you learn by trial and error… oftentimes many errors; painful, expensive, potentially business threatening errors.

A good accountant will discuss your current financial situation and your financial goals, and then help you create a plan to get there. They should not only manage your finances but also teach you how to budget in order to keep healthy credit, a steady cash flow, and grow your business.

4. They are constantly learning

Tax codes and legislative requirements are constantly changing and your accountant needs to stay on top of these changes. They should also be regularly seeking out continuing education that will help them better serve their clients. There is an old saying: “If you aren’t growing, you’re dying.”  

Make sure that your accountant is growing their education base and business so that they can help you grow yours. You can figure this out by asking them about the latest changes in tax codes. If they are able to provide you with a substantive answer, it’s a good indicator that they’re staying in the know.

5. They are happy to explain things to you

Financial statements can be confusing! Even though it’s easier to pawn the “money stuff” off on someone else and go back to the creative or income-producing tasks you most enjoy, that’s a dangerous path to head down. Some accountants even believe that if they keep their clients in the dark about their finances, this somehow creates job security.

This couldn’t be more wrong! This is your business and you should know what’s happening. A good accountant will take the time to explain your financial statements to you, making sure that you fully understand where your business is financially and what changes need to be made (if any).

The takeaway

Working with the right accountant can be as important as working with the right business partner. So, don’t base your decision on who is the most affordable. Look for who is the most qualified, relevant to your field, recommended by others, and easy to work with.

Keep in mind that, no matter who is managing your books, you should also take a proactive role in understanding your business finances and bookkeeping. The right accountant will be happy to guide you in taking a more active role in managing your business finances.

Larry L. Bertsch, CPA, CFF is the principle of Larry L. Bertsch, CPA & Associates, a top certified public accountants firm that has been offering quality accounting and tax preparation services to the entire Las Vegas market since 2003.

Since beginning his practice in 1964, Mr. Bertsch has been engaged in tax preparation and planning, accounting, bookkeeping, litigation support, bankruptcy trustee services, receiverships, forensic accounting, and business evaluations, and was appointed by the Department of Justice as a panel Trustee for Bankruptcies in 1991.