Hiring an accountant is all about finding the right “fit”

You’re an expert at running a small business. But managing your books, taxes, and financial statements could be another story. An accountant is a vital partner in your business venture, helping you “crunch the numbers” and ensure your business is moving on a path toward financial success.

But don’t risk working with just anyone. Hire an accountant with the qualities and skills to fit with your business.


Understand your needs

Do you need an accountant for your small business? Let’s find out! There are 3 main areas where an accountant can be of assistance. Take some time to understand all 3 and determine where you need the most help. You may even discover you need a partner for every area.


  • Reconcile accounts
  • Set up Quickbooks
  • Categorize expenses
  • Timely monthly financial statements
  • Maintaining accounts payable & receivable

Tax Services

  • Tax preparation
  • IRS audit representation
  • Estate and gift tax planning
  • State and local tax consulting
  • Business entity selection
  • Merger & acquisition consultations

Financial Statements

  • Prepare compiled or reviewed financial statements
  • Financial reporting for investors and lenders
  • Bank loan preparation

Also keep in mind there’s a difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant.

  • Bookkeeper — Can set up your accounting software and perform the simple bookkeeping tasks described above. Best for those who don’t need help preparing tax returns, conducting tax planning, or certifying an audit.
  • Accountant — Can handle everything from the day-to-day needs of your company to preparing business taxes. Have the training to interpret and analyze financial data.

The benefits of having a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) on your team

There’s one more professional here to consider — a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

A CPA is an accountant who passed a rigorous state exam and can certify an audit. These are highly qualified experts in the field of public accounting and are the best trained to handle the financials for your business at every level.

A CPA provides…

  • Preparation of audited, reviewed, or compiled financial statements
  • Preparation of federal, state, and local taxes
  • Representation in front of the IRS in the case of an audit or other issue
  • Formation services such as deciding on legal structure and executing formation documents
  • Management services to improve a businesses day-to-day operations and provide strategic long-term planning, including budgeting and financial planning

When you want the best for your small business, you want a CPA.

Outsource or hire an accountant internally?


Should you hire a CPA to join your team in-house? Or partner with a CPA firm for your accounting needs? Nine times out of ten, the best option for small businesses is to partner with a firm. There are a lot of reasons for accounting outsourcing:

More cost effective

  • Interviewing, hiring, and on-boarding is time consuming and expensive
  • As a small business, you may not have enough work to support a full-time CPA

Accuracy and timeliness

  • Alleviates late, inaccurate, or meaningless financial reporting
  • Better proactivity with the ability to spot red flags and notify you about expenditures and cash flow

Checks and balances

  • Avoids one person at the helm of your finances
  • Helps you avoid this person manipulating the books, creating fake expenses that go unnoticed

Greater financial expertise

  • Financial responsibilities aren’t all on one person. Instead, you’ll get the expertise of a whole team
  • A CPA firm works with business across many industries — they’ve seen it all and know how to handle all kinds of financial situations

NOTE: If you decide to hire a CPA firm, remember a local firm is always the best choice. They’ll have a better understanding of the unique challenges facing local small businesses, including pertinent state laws. Not to mention, if you ever need to meet face-to-face, your team will only be a drive away.

Talk to referrals

As you’re looking for an accountant, go beyond simply reading reviews. Approach the firm and ask to talk to some of their current clients to learn more. Most firms will be happy to provide referrals for you to contact.

Aim to learn about their experience working with the firm. Some great questions to ask might include:

  • How often do you hear from your accountant? (Example: Only at tax time or a couple of times during the year?)
  • Has the firm had a lot of staff turnover on your account?
  • How satisfied are you with the quality of the staff working on your account?
  • What do you like most about the firm?
  • What do you think the firm could improve?

Look beyond the numbers

Accounting is more than just crunching numbers. It’s also about providing great service and attention. Look for a partner who provides the best of both worlds.

What does it mean for a CPA firm to provide great service? The best business-accountant relationships are built on trust and excellent communication. This is where a big part of the “fit” aspect comes into play. You should feel like the firm is a partner, not an entity to be managed.

You’ll have to talk and potentially meet face-to-face with the CPA firm to get the best read on how well you mesh together. But before you have a conversation, there are a few other things you can look at:

  • The firm’s website — particularly the about page
  • Years in business
  • Online reviews

What to ask the firm


Once you’ve identified 1 or 2 CPA firms you feel are a good fit, it’s time to set up a time to speak to each one and get a better sense of who they are and whether or not they’re right for your business. Create a list of questions or things you need to know before you can feel confident in making a decision.

A few questions to consider asking a small business accounting service are:

  • How often do you work with small businesses? What kinds of small businesses do you work with? Do you have any clients in my industry?
  • What kind of accounting tasks can you help me with
  • How available will you be?
  • What are your fees and charges?
  • What makes you different? Why should I choose you?


Our Vancouver Certified Public Accountants are here to answer your questions

Opsahl Dawson is proud to be the trusted CPA firm for small businesses in Washington state. Our client partnerships are focused on long-term success. We offer the latest tools and technology to make your experience easy and efficient. Most importantly, our team is comprised of the best and most experienced CPAs in the area, ready to serve you.

Let’s chat and learn more about each other to find out if we’re the right fit for your business.