What to Look for in an Accountant

The world of finance and accounting can often feel overwhelming, whether its your first time sourcing financial help or even if you’ve been an industry player for a number of years. No matter whether you’re looking for someone to assist you with taxation, auditing, book keeping, or advisory services choosing the right person to suit your and your needs is an essential task.

After 36 years of experience in the accounting industry and through working within a large international company, owning my own business and specialising in small business, I’ve seen and heard it all from clients who felt like the accountant they choose just wasn’t working out how they planned. I have developed a 7-item list of qualities that you should be looking for in your current or potential accountant.

First Impressions Count

Your first contact your Accountant will set the scene, whether this be over the phone or through email. Enquire about the firm and how they may meet your needs before hand. I always believe speaking to someone is best. You should be looking for a firm and accountant that you find engaging and how shows a genuine interest in you.

WARNING – proceed with caution if they just want to rush you to make an appointment.

It’s About You

First and foremost you are the customer and you are checking our your potential supplier. Any discussions you have should be based around you, your business and/or your needs.

WARNING – proceed with caution if the Accountant focuses on themselves instead of focusing on you.

Listening and Understanding

A good Accountant will listen. A good Accountant will ask pertinent questions that help to get our your story and facts. A good Accountant will demonstrate they understand the facts outlined. If you feel like your information is getting across or your goals and the Accountant’s goals for you aren’t matching up, rethink the longevity of the relationship.

STRENGTHS – An ability to quickly assemble the facts and form understanding is an essential quality.

Sharing Knowledge

A good Accountant will not only demonstrate understanding but also share initial thoughts and comments. An experienced Accountant should be able to raise issues from the conversation and share a general view and suggestions.

STRENGTHS – A good Accountant will demonstrate knowledge and ability, and an easy manner in sharing and gaining your understanding.


As mentioned above you are looking for a potential supplier and as such an interviewing process should take place. During this interview phase ask the Accountant who will do your work and provide your advice? Ask if the Accountant has a service charter that governs how they deal with you, the client and ensure this meets your goals and needs.

WARNING – Are you interviewing the Accountant who you will continue to deal with once the honeymoon is over?

Cost (Budget and Value)

It is foremost a business transaction. As with any other professional, product or service, you have to feel comfortable with what you are spending and what you will receive in return. The Accountant should be comfortable discussing costs with you. Don’t be afraid to request a quote or ask about a fee agreement.

STRENGTHS – An Accountant who is comfortable discussing fees and charges has confidence in the quality of the service they will provide.

The Customer is Generally Right

You are the Buyer. You must feel comfortable with the person who will assist you, the outcome you expect to achieve and their ability to deliver those outcomes. Ask Questions. This is your opportunity to assess the “product”.

If you have particular needs or wants, raise them and satisfy yourself that the Accountant is prepared to work how you wish. Remember, not all shoes fit comfortably. Don’t be afraid to try the fit before committing long-term.

WARNING – If it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t.

Choosing the right accountant doesn’t need to be a point and pick situation. Take the time you need, get to know the person you’ll be working with and ask the questions that are important to you. Ensure you are choosing the best possible person for the job, and maybe you’ll even get a life-long relationship out of it.

If you can see more warning signs than strengths then email me at ross@rhaaccounting.com.au to get a feel for a company with a difference.

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