Despite the Clark Kent-like stereotype of an unassuming business-like exterior, good accountants do possess an inner super-hero power, a rare and privileged kind of knowledge: They know how much “things” should cost. For example, if you were planning to buy a motel in Jackson, Wyoming, a good accountant would be able to tell you how much you should pay, based on the number of units, the quality of the property, and its location. He or she would also be able to help figure out the nightly rates for different rooms. That’s the power of accounting.
 
Of course, your accountant would be mostly attending to ongoing tasks such as helping you:
 
  • Find and document your tax deductions
  • Set up systems to track and manage cash flow and inventory
  • Prepare successful loan applications, including auditing services when required
  • Decide when you need to raise or lower your prices – and by how much
As is the case with all of your advisors, experts do say that perhaps the best way to identify the CPA who’s right for your business is through word-of-mouth networking. Your other advisors will be important referral sources, and so will your colleagues, suppliers, and customers. Remember, the more familiar your accountant is with your business and industry, the more powerful (accurate and targeted) his or her numbers will be.

Game Plan

  • The SBA has useful information on accounting for small businesses. This link provides an overview of the topic.
  • The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is the national association for CPAs. Not surprisingly, their website is mostly CPA-centric. But business owners may want to access the page that links to the individual state sites. That’s where you can find listings of CPAs in your local area.
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