Choosing an Accountancy Firm

1. Look to see whether the firm demonstrates that they have understood what your accounting needs actually entail.

Almost all projects involve a number of stages which a firm will need to work through. A good firm is able to anticipate these accurately when they consider your contract, and the quote will reflect time for these.

Look out for this. If an accountancy firm can't plausibly itemise the stages they're going to need to go through when quoting, it suggests that they may not really understand what your business entails, which will mean you'll struggle to get things done to your expectations.

2. Does the firm have the commercial and international experience to appreciate your business objectives?

There are many situations which call on a firm to have a deep understanding and perspective of a particular business trend or commercial item in your sector. These are not, unfortunately, easy qualifications to acquire. A firm lacking these skills may have difficulty in helping you gain maximum commercial benefit from whatever situation they may be handling for you. In this case, look for a firm in which the people looking after your business have real commercial and international experience, gained from first hand experience of working in in-house finance teams, not just experience from working in the accountancy profession. 

3. Think about whether the firm has the experience to properly understand the subject and the context of your business.

It’s all about the breadth and depth of experience and as in all things, the experience of accountancy firms varies greatly. There are some excellent accountants available who lack experience, but have a great deal of enthusiasm, energy and practical skills, and for some simple roles such a firm may well be an acceptable choice. For other situations, however, such a firm's inability to properly grasp the more subtle business issues, or to really understand how some business issues fit within the broader context of your sector may prove frustrating for you and, in the end, impair the firm's ability to provide you with the service you need.

4. Look for professional experience. A proactive firm will be able to ask you probing questions and, later, to fill in the gaps in what you say.

A proactive firm will ask you questions about your business, its objectives, challenges, clients, customers and myriad other things. The less detailed you are in your prepared briefing, the more a proactive firm will ask. Equally, you'll find a proactive firm feeding back to you things that you've omitted to mention, or sometimes even to think about, but which their experience suggests require consideration. You should be aware that if a firm does not ask questions in this way it doesn't mean there are none: it means only that they lack the experience to foresee them.

5. Make certain that the firm is expecting and willing to interpret and integrate your feedback.

Understanding your feedback, and being able and willing to incorporate it into their way of working, is a core skill of an outsourced finance team. The ability to do so is a sign of an experienced and professional firm. Any task simply isn't complete until your comments have been integrated and you're completely happy.

6. Check that the firm genuinely has the capacity to take on your job.

As in many service businesses, most accountancy firms experience busy times, and quieter times. If you're offering your business to an accountancy firm, make certain they have worked out the time that will be required, and that they are able to tell you precisely when your business can be scheduled into their workload.

When selecting an Accountancy Firm as your Outsourced Finance Team there are 6 things you should look out for. 

We'd urge caution before handing a critical piece of business to a firm that raises your concerns in relation to any of these.

If you'd like to clarify anything, call us on 44 (0)20 8777 0800, or send us an e-mail.