Finding the right service provider, whether it is a CPA firm, attorney or something else, is an important decision-making process.
Ideally, you'll have a long relationship with that service provider, a relationship that both of you will view as a partnership. As a result, the selection process is important.
I believe that, regardless of the type of service provider, there are six primary questions you should ask before you make your pick.
What is your expected turnaround time?
If your work is time-sensitive, you need to start with expected timing. It may be a deal killer from the start. Expect that, with a good service provider, it will typically take some time to turn around work. If they're good, they're generally popular and not waiting around for the next piece of work to come through the door.
What is your communication policy?
Regardless of whether a service provider is busy, you should still have an understanding and expectation of how quickly you can expect them to respond to your communications. There is nothing more frustrating than working with a service provider that does not respond to your requests for information or assistance in a timely manner. Also, does his or her preferred communication method lineup with yours?
How long have you been doing this?
Find out how long the service provider has been doing what you need to have done. Does he or she have the right amount of experience to help you in the area you need?
Who will I primarily be working with?
Is there a team-based approach within the firm or is it one person? There is strength in a team approach, as you are essentially getting more than one person to work for you. Even with a team-based approach you should insist upon one primary point of contact so that you are not bouncing around among team members.
How do you price and bill?
Is it an hourly or fixed-price model? If hourly, how can you estimate what the overall cost will be? Will I be billed for emails and phone calls? We believe that a fixed-price approach is most fair to customers, as it removes the potential conflict of interest with the hourly billing model - the client wants to minimize it while whether subconsciously or not, the service provider may be trying to maximize hourly billing. Find out the payment terms and when payment will be due.
What is your risk tolerance?
Is the service provider ultra-conservative or super-aggressive? Does that align with your personal beliefs and preferred approach?
My goal today was to provide you with information to help evaluate potential service providers.
Adam Shay, CPA (N.C. License Number 35961), MBA, is managing partner of Adam Shay CPA, PLLC. He focuses on minimizing taxes and improving the financial results of entrepreneurs, and is actively involved in supporting the Wilmington entrepreneurial and startup community. For more information, visit http://www.wilmingtontaxesandaccounting.com/ or email him at [email protected]. He can also be reached by phone at (910) 256-3456.
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