The worst way to find a CPA is to "call one up and hire him" sight unseen, believes Irving L. Blackman, a frequently published CPA and senior partner in Blackman Kallick Bartelstein, a large Chicago accounting firm. He recommends that every candidate be asked the same questions. Among his key questions to ask:
Is timely service delivered? Accounting information can get out of date quickly. Except for annual information, most accounting information should be no more than 10 to 30 days old.
Will the same people always service your account? Who else in the firm will be available for second opinions?
What services beyond the usual reporting and number-crunching are offered?
How can the accountant help you make money? It sounds like a wise-guy question, but the answer will help you find out if candidates are interested in your business. Did they review the financial information you provided prior to the interview? Did they make sure you understood the accounting concepts, instead of just tossing off a bunch of jargon?
How are fees structured and calculated? The accounting firm should be able to quote a specified amount geared toward the format and time frame in which you submit your raw data.
CPAs are urged to maintain good client relations, extend prompt service, take a sincere interest in clients, avoid arguments, return phone calls promptly, and treat clients as equals. You may certainly ask about the time frame for returning calls.
This material was excerpted from Chapter 2 of Financial Troubleshooting by David H. Bangs Jr. and Michael Pellecchia. Copyright 1999 Goldhirsh Group Inc.