Get expert advice on every topic you need as a small business owner, from the ideation stage to your eventual exit. Our articles, quick tips, infographics and how-to guides can offer entrepreneurs the most up-to-date information they need to flourish.
Comparing outsourced accounting agencies? Ask these 6 questions
Posted by Celene Robert
April 10, 2023
Thinking about outsourcing your small business’ accounting needs this year? It’s a great way to free up your time and realign your focus on business-boosting activities.
But before you hire the first outsourced accounting firm you meet, it’s important to vet your options. Choosing the right accounting agency up front protects your business from the complications of a poor fit, the inefficiencies of an inexperienced agency and the risks involved with trusting your finances to a less-than-trustworthy professional.
While researching potential outsourced accounting agencies, we recommend asking every agency these 6 questions before you sign on the dotted line:
1. What services do you offer?
Asking about the full range of services available also gives you a clue as to the knowledge and experience level of the firm. If they have limited services available, that may indicate a smaller team, or a group unable to provide reliable advanced accounting services, like tax planning and financial forecasting. If they don’t offer a specific service that you need, ask if they can refer you to someone who can help.
You want an accounting agency that has experience working with small businesses similar to yours, especially if your business is in a niche or complex industry like high tech or medical services, for example. Ask about their experience, credentials and any specialized knowledge they have in your industry.
You’ll also want to make sure that the accounting agency has experience working with small businesses of a similar size to yours. If they do, you’ll know that they understand the unique challenges and opportunities that small businesses face, and can provide tailored accounting services to meet your needs.
Whether you have 10 employees and need accounting services that are both affordable and highly hands-on, or you’ve got 500 employees across the country, your accounting firm should have specialized skills that suit your specific size and growth goals.
3. What software do you use?
Make sure the accounting agency uses up-to-date software that integrates with your existing systems. Ask if they have experience with your accounting software and if they can provide training on new software, as needed.
This is an important question to ask up front because the accounting firm’s software can impact the efficiency and accuracy of your accounting processes. If your team will be required to change their processes to integrate with the firm’s procedures, ask if they will provide training to get your team up to speed.
A good accounting agency will be transparent about their software and how willing they are to help you team adapt.
4. What is your pricing structure?
Ask about their fees and billing structure, including any additional costs or fees that may arise as your business grows. Make sure you understand the scope of their services and what’s included in the price.
A reputable accounting agency will be transparent about their fees, billing structure, payment methods accepted, and services offered. Before you commit to an outsourced accounting firm, make sure you understand exactly what charges to expect now, and as your company grows. That will save you from unfortunate surprises down the road!
It’s also smart to get a clear scope, in writing, of what services are not included in your basic fee. For example, some accounting agencies may charge extra for services like tax preparation or financial statements, while others may include these services in their standard package.
Overall, you want to make sure that the accounting agency’s pricing structure is reasonable and that you’re getting value for your money.
5. How do you keep my data secure?
You want to ensure that your financial information is safe and secure. Ask about their data security protocols, including how they store and backup data, and how they protect against data breaches.
Your financial information is sensitive and confidential. Before you engage with an accounting firm, you should make sure your data will be handled and protected properly.
With cyber attacks on the rise, and hackers constantly going after financial data, you should look for an outsourced accounting agency that stores information in encrypted files, uses secure transmission methods like a customer portal, and has strong data security protocols in place to protect your information, including firewalls, encryption and regular data backups.
6. How do you communicate with clients?
Effective communication is key to a successful outsourcing relationship. Ask about their communication process, including how often they will communicate with you and in what format.
Effective communication is crucial for a successful outsourcing relationship. You want to make sure that the accounting agency you’re working with has a communication process that’s clear and effective—otherwise you’ll spend more time chasing your services than those services actually save you!
By asking the right questions before you begin a new outsourced accounting arrangement, you can better assess which partnership is the right fit for your small business.
Want more? In addition to accounting, Escalon offers a full suite of Essential Business Services, such as outsourced CFOs, HR, recruiting, business insurance and more. Talk to an expert today.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. Escalon and its affiliates are not providing tax, legal or accounting advice in this article. If you would like to engage with Escalon, please contact us here.
Celene heads up the marketing at Escalon. Passionate about helping companies grow their business, she spends her days finding new ways to bring essential business services to startups, SMBs, and growth-minded companies. Based in the PNW, she’s the proud owner of 8 pairs of Birkenstocks and a sassy, cuddly cat.