For the owners of young businesses, relationships with outside accountants can be a crucial component in forging successful growth strategies. Alternatively, those relationships can amount to little more than a series of missed opportunities if business owners fail to recognize the potential contribution that well-seasoned accounting advisers can make -- especially to companies whose internal financial departments may be woefully understaffed.

If you're unsure about how to make the best of your dealings with your outside accountant, start reading 101 Questions to Ask Your CPA, a free eight-page brochure provided by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The comprehensive checklist of questions runs the gamut from financing issues to tax planning, salary and benefits topics, and even personal financial planning.

As you scan the brochure -- which includes such savvy questions as "When do I need to set up an internal audit function?" and "What is 'mezzanine financing,' and when should I consider it for my business?" -- you may get the sense that any CPAs who know all the answers should be running a company themselves. Maybe you won't be able to work your way through the complete checklist. But do use it to boost your own knowledge and to help determine whether your CPA is good enough.

To receive a copy of the brochure, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to AICPA, 1211 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036.

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