Whether you need someone to see how well your business stacks up against the competition or you simply need someone to manage your finances, having a capable and responsive accountant can make a world of difference. So, how do you find the right accountant for your small business? In episode #120, Gene Marks and Elizabeth Larkin advise business owners on where to find a reputable accountant.

Executive Summary

0:48—How Do I Find the Right Accountant for My Small Business?

3:01—The best resource for finding an accountant is personal references from family, friends or fellow business owners. Be sure to also check with your local industry association and see who they recommend.

4:47— If your small business is still in its early stages, your main criteria for an accountant should be that they are responsive and reliable.

5:44—Once your business is more established, you need to find an accountant who has knowledge of your particular industry so that you can understand where your business stands in the current marketplace.

7:13—Small business owners can also check with their local chapter of Certified Public Accountants to see who might be a good match for their business.

8:44—Gene encourages business owners to provide free coffee in their office because caffeine is proven to foster productivity and collaboration among employees.



Elizabeth: Welcome back to another episode of the Small Biz Ahead podcast.

Gene: Excited to be here.

Elizabeth: I’m Elizabeth Larkin. I’m here with Gene Marks.

Gene: You know, since we started these Facebook videos, we’re not doing any like bantering back and forth. Have you noticed that?

Elizabeth: I know. Well, you know what, at the word of brilliance today-

Gene: I don’t think they care.

Elizabeth: They totally don’t. In the word of brilliance, I’m going to ask Gene to give a TV show recommendation. So if you care about that, that’ll be the end of the video.

Gene: Now you know to switch off at that point in time. Great job, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: But, before that, today we’re going to be talking about how to find the right accountant for your small business. Gene is a CPA.

Gene: Yeah.

Elizabeth: He’s not a practicing CPA because as he always says, he’s not a very good CPA.

Gene: No.

Elizabeth: So after we hear from our sponsor, he is going to tell us though, how you can find a really reputable, great accountant for your business.

Gene: Right.

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QUESTION: How Do You Find the Right Accountant?

Elizabeth: So, today’s topic is finding the right accountant for your business. This was actually a question sent in by a listener anonymously. They didn’t tell us what their name is, where they’re located, or what their business is. So, we will make that up. I’m gonna say-

Gene: Okay. I actually did a little digging, and it turns out it was Bernie Madoff that made that request. So, if you’re listening Bernie, I know where you are, and hopefully this helps you.

Elizabeth: Okay. So, I’m going to make up a business. I’m going to say, I don’t know why bakeries have just been on my mind.

Gene: You always talk about bakeries.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: You love bakeries.

Elizabeth: The funny thing is-

Gene: You’ve got the little neighborhood bakery, that you never go to.

Elizabeth: I never go to them. I never go to them.

Gene: So, let’s talk about bakeries, it’s fine. Okay.

Elizabeth: So, let’s say you’re a baker, and you’ve spent years bringing your baked goods into the office at your corporate job. People ask you to like, if they’re having like an open house, they’re like, “Could you please bring your baked goods? They’re so good.” Then people start asking you, “Can you make our wedding cake?” At this point you’re like, “You know what, maybe I should make a little money off of this.” So, you take the plunge, a couple of years down the road you have a bakery, and you have five employees. You decide, “You know what, I don’t really like my current accountant. I just kind of picked him or her, because they were the first ones that came up in my google search.” How do you start a search? What’s important in finding a reputable account, and one that’s actually appropriate to your small business.

Gene: So, there’s two places that I would recommend that you go to find an accountant. The place, number one is, you ask people. That’s number one. So, you ask other friends of yours, other business owners that you know. You run the bakery and you’re on Main Street, I dunno, you take a walk down Main Street and knock on the doors of hopefully, some of the other merchants there, and you ask them who they’re using? Do they like their accountants, or whatever? Or, you asked your personal relationships. If you belong to an industry association, may be belong to the bakeries National Association of Bakers or whatever. You talk to other people that’s in that industry association. We’ll get back to that in a minute. But, that’s one place that you go, you ask for a reference. The number by far, if you ask any accountant or CPA, the number one source of their leads, is a reference.

Elizabeth: Word of mouth.

Gene: It’s word of mouth. People are not just googling accountants, and choosing them on the Internet. It’s just not that kind of a thing.

Elizabeth: Let’s say. All right, you’ve got your bakery. I think the reason I talk about bakeries all the time is, it’s just a great word. I don’t know why.

Gene: You’re just always hungry.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I had a salad for lunch. So now I’m like, “Can I get a baked good?” So, let’s say like you’re a bakery, and you take a walk down Main Street, and the place next door is a hair salon, and then next to that is a mechanic. Is the same accountant, if they both tell you the same person that, “Oh, you got to go to Mary the account, she’s fantastic.” Does it matter if they have completely different businesses and business models? Does that matter what type of accountant you pick?

Gene: So, I’m going to say no, and then yes. How ’bout that?

Elizabeth: I love the, it depends answer.

Gene: Actually, it doesn’t depend. It’s no, and then yes. So, if you’re very small and you’re running that bakery, or you’re a two person, or a 10 person operation or whatever. You want to find somebody good at accounting. Accounting is not … Listen, I’m an accountant. I am living proof that you don’t have to have a lot of intelligence to be doing this work.

Elizabeth: We’re going to get so many mean comments.

Gene: No. My point being that, it’s something that if you find a good, smart person to do the work, regardless of their industry expertise, they should be able to handle the work. So, if you hear from your, this person, “Susan, she’s really smart and she’s good at accounting. She always answers my emails. When I call her, she picks up the phone, she’s responsive.”

Elizabeth: That’s the most important thing.

Gene: Yeah, you want a good responsive person, because your business, if you’re just the bakery, it’s not too tough to learn, get your arms around that, from an accounting perspective. So, at that stage of the game, and that might be for your entire life, you just want a good person that’s responsive, smart. Right? Now, if you grow and you start having a chain of bakeries-

Elizabeth: Franchising.

Gene: -or you franchise it out, or you have whatever, then you really want to look for that same smart, responsive, good, reputable person, but who also has some expertise in your industry. Because then it becomes more important to you that that person can compare you to other bakeries, or at least other retailers, or other restaurateurs and say, “Hey, your margins are a little bit lower than what they should be, compared to my other bakery clients.”

Elizabeth: If you expand into a coffee shop or something, then that’s a totally different type of business.

Gene: Yeah, it is. Again, verticalization, industry expertise, does become important when you go to an accountant. Because, I find accountants that focus on industries, really bring their clients a lot of value in that industry. The reason why is, because most of us want to know what the other guy’s doing. You know what I mean? So like, I don’t know, “Is my operating expenses in line with what you would expect?” You would hope that your accountant can say to you, “Actually, it’s a little bit higher than what other companies like yours do.” You know what I mean? I think it’s important to get somebody with industry expertise. But first and foremost, early on when you’re small and you’re whatever, you want somebody that is smart, and proactive, and can pick up the phone, and responds to your emails, and comes with good references. That’s what you want.

So by the way, I said number one place to find your account was getting a good reference is number one by far. But, number two is a good place to also look, is your local chapter of your CPA’s. So, I live in Philly, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants is excellent. They have a member referral service there. You can literally call them up and say, “This is my business, and what I’m looking for, and what I want.” They will refer, hopefully not me, but somebody else that’s a member in good standing of the PICP. All the states have their societies.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Okay, great. That was a really quick, thorough answer, Gene.

Gene: Thank you.

Elizabeth: Well done.

Gene: I try to be quick and thorough. Yes. Which leaves us plenty of time to talk about TV shows.

Elizabeth: All right, so we’ll right back, with Gene’s word of brilliance. He’s going to give us a word of brilliance, and-

Gene: A word of brilliance, and a TV show.

Elizabeth: And a TV show recommendation.

Gene: There will be a word of brilliance. Okay.

Elizabeth: We’ll be right back.


Elizabeth: So, we’re back with our word of brilliance. I got a preview of it and it’s one of my favorite things.

Gene: Is it?

Elizabeth: Yes.

Gene: You mean the article that I wrote?

Elizabeth: The article-

Gene: Thank you that’s so nice of you.

Elizabeth: The article’s excellent.

Gene: But, your favorite thing is coffee?

Elizabeth: It’s one of my favorite things, yeah.

Gene: Okay, it is coffee. So, coffee is today’s word of brilliance. What we mean, why I say about coffee is this. There was a recent research report that came out that said, this is from a scientist, and I apologize because I’m looking down at my notes that I took this, when I wrote this for Small Biz Ahead. Anyway, it was from the psychopharmacology, the Journal of Psychopharmacology, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: Do you read that regularly?

Gene: No, I don’t read the Journal of Psychopharmacology. I read the Wall Street Journal, and that’s about it. The journalists like psychopharmacology came out of the report recently said that, coffee through these studies actually improves productivity and brainpower of employees. Actually, it make them more collaborative amongst each other, like team building or whatever. I mean the effects of caffeine, it’s like magic pixie dust or something. Apparently, it really does have this kind of an impact. So, when people are going to the coffee machine, it’s kind of a good thing.

So, I thought about this, because I do have some clients are like, “We pay all this money for coffee. Our employees usually yabber at the coffee pot.”

Elizabeth: How much can they possibly be spending on coffee?

Gene: Listen, if you’re a small business, you could be spending a couple hundred bucks a month on coffee.

Elizabeth: Hundred? What?

Gene: I don’t know. Do you have a coffee service that comes in and replaces the coffee, and services the machine?

Elizabeth: Why can’t you just have a regular coffee pot?

Gene: Nobody gets a coffee pot anymore, and most people get those Keurig machines.

Elizabeth: Oh, Keurig’s are terrible.

Gene: These are what’s popular that I see out there. Then they get serviced, and I don’t know, maybe it’s 50 bucks a month. I mean that’s 600 bucks a year. I mean it’s still, it adds up. So, a lot of times clients are like, “Should I charge my … put a little cup out there and ask people to put in fifty cents every time they get a cup?” Don’t do that.

Elizabeth: That’s really cheap.

Gene: Don’t charge your employees for coffee. Suck it up. Don’t charge your employees for coffee. Okay? Don’t ask them for twenty five cents, or fifty cents. For the few hundred bucks a year that it costs you, not only is it a nice perk for your employees to go, they take a break and go there or whatever. But, it’s been proven scientifically, that it does improve their productivity, does improve the collaboration skills, makes them act better as a team. It really does have benefits for your business, that we’re not even quantifying right now. So, keep bringing the coffee.

Elizabeth: Okay. I want to jump in with a story. I’ve told this on the podcast before, so I think I’ve told it like twice. But, I still think about this is such a great perk that was really cheap, at a company that I worked at. It was called About.com, was a tech startup. Every Thursday, it was Bagel Thursday. They would bring in bagels, cream cheese, butter, and we would talk about Bagel Thursday all week. What would happen is, everyone would, it was New York and it was a tech startup, so everyone would stroll in at like 9:30 in the morning, and we would immediately all go get our bagels. We would all stand around and chat and eat our bagels. Yeah, we talked about personal stuff, but so many times we were talking about work things. We would be like, “Oh, you’re working on that. I didn’t know you were working, I’m working on that too.”

Gene: That kind of stuff matters and it counts, I agree.

Elizabeth: It’s so … The cost for coffee, I think the productivity that it gets you, and the collaboration it could get you. If you see two employees talking over coffee, they’re probably talking about their work. Not all the time.

Gene: Unless, it’s you or your workmates.

Elizabeth: Me and Sandy get coffee every morning.

Gene: How to get more miles on your next plane trip?

Elizabeth: On American Airlines. Yeah. So, yes. So, I love coffee. I think that-

Gene: Keep paying for. It improves productivity, and collaboration.

Elizabeth: It makes you look a little cheap, if you’re charging employees for coffee. But, Keurig, that is really expensive though. So, I understand why people would want to help footing the bill for that, but I don’t know. Look into a regular coffee pot.

Gene: Before I let you guys go, I gave you my word of the day, the TV show to watch on Netflix, Fortitude. Gotta watch Fortitude.

Elizabeth: What’s it about?

Gene: Oh, it’s about this town called Fortitude, and it’s up by the Arctic Circle. I think, it’s a Danish or a Norwegian town, and it’s a small mining town. Few hundred people live in there, and a murder happens. Who committed the murder?

Elizabeth: A polar bear?

Gene: Oh, we don’t know yet. Could be. Or, it could be another human being. It’s a murder mystery that takes place there. And it’s really, really good.

Elizabeth: Cool.

Gene: Season one’s very, very good.

Elizabeth: And I have a book recommendation, because we used to give book recommendations too.

Gene: Maybe next time.

Elizabeth: You want me to keep it for next time?

Gene: No, I can give you a book recommendation next time. What’s yours?

Elizabeth: Actually, let’s hold that. Next episode, we’re both gonna give a book recommendation. Then we’ll see who makes the better recommendation, because everything’s a contest here. Thanks for joining us on this episode of the Small Biz Ahead podcast.

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