Learn how your business can benefit from working with accountants, financial advisors, and bankers.
What is one obstacle that may keep you from engaging an accountant, financial advisor, or banker?
As a small business owner, you’re used to wearing many hats, from CEO to marketing wizard to sales guru. But when it comes to money matters, figuring it out alone can be overwhelming.
Every small business owner needs a reliable team made up of three key partners: an accountant, a financial advisor, and a banker. Here’s an overview of what each partner brings to the table, where to find them, and the questions you should ask before working with one.
1. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
A CPA is a state-licensed accounting professional who has passed the CPA exam. Not all accountants are CPAs, a CPA can provide more than bookkeeping and tax-filing services.
CPAs may charge more than accountants because a CPA can guide you on financial planning and ways to strategically grow your business. A good CPA ensures your business is compliant, manages your books, and helps you chart a course to achieve your long-term vision.
The cost of hiring an accountant or CPA depends on how complicated your business taxes are and the time you spend working with them. The average fee for an accountant’s tax services ranges from $176 to $457 per hour. Additional services cost more and vary by state.
Questions to ask a CPA
- Do you work with clients in my industry? It helps to find a CPA who has experience working with businesses in your industry because they can offer tailored advice.
- Are you available all year? Some professionals may only take on clients close to tax season, but ideally, you should look for a partner who will be available for questions year-round.
- Will you do the work or will someone else? Some CPAs may hire outside parties to perform basic bookkeeping services. You can ask if you have access to the person who handles your books for when you have questions, since the CPA may not always be familiar with the details.
- What software do you use? If your CPA uses software that seamlessly integrates with your small business accounting software, it can simplify the process of sharing your information.
Resources to find a CPA
- Ask around: Start by asking people in your network which accountant they use and how they found them. An initial consultation is typically free.
- Use local business networks: If you don’t have a network to tap into, contact your local SCORE chapter to connect with small business mentors who can help you find a CPA.
Tip: Verify that your CPA has an active license and no disciplinary actions on their record using the CPAVerify tool.
2. Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
While a CPA can offer some financial planning guidance, a CFP or wealth manager can come up with a financial plan for your personal finances that takes your business into account. They can help you save, budget, manage debt, and plan for goals like retirement, sending your kids to college, or growing your business.
A CFP must pass an exam and follow standards set by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards to offer services, whereas a non-CFP planner or wealth manager does not. Some CFPs specialize in certain areas of finance like managing debt, or cater to specific customers such as physicians, military members, or small business owners.
Questions to ask a financial planner
- Are you a fiduciary? When a planner follows a fiduciary standard, they are obligated to give you advice based on what is best for your financial situation. All CFPs are held to a fiduciary standard.
- How do you charge fees? Advisors can follow different fee models, and CFPs typically charge more than non-certified advisors. Those who follow a “fee-only” model adhere to the fiduciary standard, whereas planners who follow a “fee-based” model may receive commissions. Financial planners typically charge an annual retainer between $2,000 to $7,500 per year. CFPs may charge more per hour, and the amount you pay will vary depending on your situation and how much time you need with an advisor.
Resources to find a CFP
Use the CFP Board database to search for CFPs in your area. You can also use the database to check whether your CFP has a current certification and a clean record.
A strong relationship with a banker can help set up your small business for success. A banker may be able to guide you in choosing the right financial products for every stage of the business, from business checking accounts to credit cards.
An ongoing relationship with your banker is also valuable when it’s time to take on capital for growth. They can guide you on the most suitable form of financing for your business and help you pick the right loan or line of credit.
After you receive financing, continue to share your business goals and vision with your banker to make them an ongoing partner in the growth of your business.
Questions to ask your banker
- What are the right products for my business? Bankers can help you decide which financial products make sense for the stage of business you’re in, whether you’re just starting out or need to expand.
- What do I need to apply for financing? A banker can assist you in determining how much to borrow and help you prepare your application for a higher chance of approval.
- What services do you offer for small businesses? A good banker doesn’t just sell you products or help you prepare applications for financial products. They also offer ongoing guidance about the industry you’re in and educate you about common pitfalls to avoid as a business owner.
Tip: Visit ‘4 questions to ask yourself before asking for money’ to assess your goals before borrowing.
The bottom line
Now that you know the insights and value these three key partners can provide to your small business, consider building a trusted team of financial experts to support you on your entrepreneurial journey.