This past football season, several high-profile players such as Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, and Dalvin Cook were sideline by injuries. Their teams experienced ups and downs due to their top players not participating. When your organization does not have top of the line role players, your business finances can suffer. Business owners struggle when to hire professionals such as an accountant. A smart move is to hire the best accountant you can afford. As the saying goes: if you don’t pay now you will later.

An accountant is a key player on your team. They should have the same technical, ethical, and leadership competencies that would be required for other team members. This professional specializes in skills that are vital to the success of your business.  An accountant can be hired as full-time or on an as-needed basis. Hiring an accountant in the startup phase will save you time, work, and money in the future. If you have been in business for a while, an accountant can propel your business to the next level.

Here are ways an accountant can help.:

  • Providing advice on accounting software options that will save time and money.
  • Explaining what tasks need to be completed in the accounting software.
  • Providing advice on how to track expenses during your daily business activities.
  • Explaining the importance of keeping good business records.
  • Advising on cash flow management.
  • Close out your books and create financial reports at the end of the year.
  • Explain your financial statements so you can understand the ins and outs of your business.
  • Provide advice and resources to assist you with running your business.

Not only is there a need to ensure your accountant has the essential technical skills, but you should also certify they have soft skills. Having certain soft skills are game changers for your business. Your accountant should be able to understand accounting concepts, but add value to your business. Your success should be their success. Here are four characteristics to look for in an accountant.

A Valuable Partner – Every professional you hire should bring something "special" to your business. For an accountant, that means assisting you with explaining how to get customers to pay earlier or communicating when your cash balance is too low to cover payroll. You should not have to go to your accountant to question financial data. An accountant should be forward thinking, keep you informed, and assist with long term planning. The accountant should provide their standard services, along with ensuring your business is financially stable. The role of your accountant is to help with much more than accounting.

The Clear Communicator – We accountants are not known to be extroverts. Many accountants are not taught how to communicate accounting jargon to non-accounting individuals. However, stellar accountants have learned how to speak to clients in an understandable way aka speak human. They learn each client’s communication style to build an open relationship. Your accountant should identify if you prefer email, text, or face to face communication.

Trusted Advisor – Entrusting an accountant to handle your business finances can be uneasy. Your business is your livelihood. Not only does your family depend on the business but your staff members also. You should have an accountant where you can share your strengths and weakness without feeling uncomfortable. The accountant should be honest and direct, but encouraging. Finances are very personal, so hire someone who you can be comfortable with. Your accountant should be a trusted advisor who has your best interest at heart.

The Luminary – How can you find a star accountant that’s compatible for your business? Reach out to businesses you admire that have proven record of success. Ask those owners who they recommend. Hiring the best accountant shows you are serious about your business to clients and potential partners. As your business grows, you may need higher level of expertise. Be willing to be honest with yourself on your needs. No matter what stage your business is in hire an accountant who will protect you and your business.

The most important thing you can do when it comes to your business finances is recognize when you need to enlist the help of a professional, then find an accountant who will help maintain the fiscal health of your business.

Linda Diakite Karressy is president of Insight Financial Group LLC.

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