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    How to Choose the Right CPA for Your Growing Business

    Posted by Sylvia Lagerquist, CPA

    How to Choose the Right CPA for Your Growing Business

    Selecting the best CPA firm for your business is a truly important decision. Your CPA firm will be a critical resource to help prepare your taxes, plan for future growth, examine options for financing, and assist you in maintaining compliance with the law.

    In order to select the best CPA firm for your business, you need to start with two questions in mind:

    1. How can I identify the highest-quality CPA firms available?
    2. How can I select the CPA firm that is the best fit for my unique needs?

    These are two distinct questions, because the first question focuses on the quality of the firms you are considering overall, whereas the second zeros in on the ‘fit’ between a firm and your business. Here are six things you should consider in order to identify and partner with the right CPA firm for your small business:

    Identifying High-Quality CPA Firms in Your Market

    Let’s begin by discussing how to identify a high-quality CPA firm. Here are three factors to look for as you perform your research:

    1. Active Participation in the Profession

    Look for firms that are actively engaged in the public accounting profession. For example, a high-quality firm should be a current member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the state or local affiliate, such the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA). Also helpful is indication that a firm is partnered with a regional, national or global network such as the CPAmerica International® or CPAConnect®.

    2. Proven History of Client Success

    Does the firm showcase information that demonstrates their proven accomplishments? For example, are there case studies or client experiences on their website? Do you see testimonials from business owners? You’re looking for concrete, in-depth information about how the firm responded to and assisted clients with a variety of challenges.
    3. Current Updates and Active Leadership

    A firm that regularly posts blog articles, white papers or e-alerts on timely accounting or compliance topics is one that is ‘on top of their game’ and is staying abreast of the rapid changes in the profession. In addition, look for a firm whose principals or partners are recognized for leadership or excellence in the markets or regions they serve. This shows that the firm is actively involved in the business community.

    Selecting the CPA Firm with the Best Fit for Your Needs

    Now that you’ve narrowed your list of candidate firms down to those who meet the three high-quality criteria discussed above, let’s take this ‘short list’ and further examine it in light of your specific needs. Here are three factors you need to examine in this regard:

    1. Engagement in the Community Around Your Business

    It’s important to select a CPA firm that knows your community or region as well. Does the firm primarily practice in the states and jurisdictions you’re doing business in, and do they have experience with the unique regulations and requirements of those communities? Is the firm’s leadership participating in business or community organizations relevant to the regional business community? Does the firm ‘give back’ to the community and stay active in your region?

    2. Knowledge of Your Industry or Business Type

    Many industries have unique challenges when it comes to accounting and tax planning. For example, government contractors have to comply with unique regulations and accounting procedures specific to their profession. Retail businesses must build an accounting strategy that considers inventory and capital equipment costs. Medical practices are both regulated and complicated by insurance reimbursement procedures and patient throughput in the practice. In short, you need to work with a CPA firm that has experience in your industry — or one that’s worked with your size of business (such as small or mid-sized companies).

    3. Breadth of Services to Support Your Goals

    Even small businesses (and sometimes, especially small businesses) are faced with a variety of accounting challenges. If your bookkeeping processes need help, this must be addressed before you focus on financing for new growth or applying for a bank loan. If your QuickBooks Chart of Accounts is improperly configured, that will impact your tax planning and IRS compliance.

    In short, you need a firm that can address the range of your needs. For most businesses, this means working with a firm that can provide tax and compliance services, but also support your accounting system, your bookkeeping processes and your executive-level financial strategy advisory needs (i.e. CFO services).

    By considering the three quality-related factors and the three fit-related factors as a whole, you will be well on your way to selecting a CPA firm that is ideally-suited to support your business, today and in the future. 

    Image Credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg (Flickr @ Creative Commons)

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