Outsourcing some of the more technical components of your business to another professional such as a certified public accountant or attorney can be daunting for many reasons including cost, trust, and even loss of control. For most small business owners, however, it signifies the growth and success of your business up to this point and is the next, smartest step to ensure continued success.
Before we move ahead, though, I want to stop and congratulate you! Even if you are not fully committed to hiring a professional provider to assist you with a specific area of your booming business just yet, your interest in the topic shows an openness to doing so, and that my friend places you leaps ahead of many of your peers. Unfortunately for many small business owners, the realization that outside assistance is necessary comes too late and at a higher cost than it would have had it been sought at an earlier time.
So where do you start? How do you actually go about finding a reputable professional such as those previously mentioned? Although there is no silver bullet way to ensure you are hiring the best person for the job, there are certain questions to ask and tips to follow when hiring regardless of the service provided.
What are my goals for this relationship?
As with any new venture or project, a good way to start is by determining your goals. For both a CPA and an attorney, you will need to have a clear understanding of what you need from them. Do you simply require a contract to be drafted or are you looking for someone you can call on a more regular basis with questions regarding copyrights and licensure? Do you need someone only in regards to your yearly tax filing, or do you need someone to advise you on how to categorize business expenses and take care of your monthly payroll needs? Determining exactly what you need will help you craft more detailed questions for your initial interview and help you both understand whether it is a good fit or not.
Which type of personality do I work best with?
As in life, it is also true with business…we don’t like to spend a significant amount of time with people that don’t share, at least in part, a similar outlook on how to do things. I personally work best with people that are friendly and don’t take themselves too seriously. I like to feel as though we are a team. For you, however, you may prefer someone that is strictly professional at all times to ensure you that taking care of your needs as a client is their first and foremost priority. Neither of the two above examples is wrong, but not knowing what type of professional you prefer could lead to a rocky relationship in the future. Try to look at the peers or colleagues you feel most comfortable working with and narrow in on the qualities that solidify your relationship. During your interview, you can not only get a feel as to whether the candidates possess these qualities themselves, but you can also ask them what type of clients they prefer as well. By asking, you will gain insight into whether you both value the same qualities in a professional relationship. As trivial as they may feel, these characteristics will help you identify someone you can trust and rely on and can have a long and successful professional relationship with.
Do they have experience serving clients in my industry and field?
In contrast to the qualitative, feel good strategy above, this one has a more clearly defined answer. Although there are certainly CPAs and attorneys highly capable of learning a new area of practice, it is typically best to find someone with at least a minimal amount of experience or exposure to your particular business or profession. As you are well aware, there are issues quite specific to the photography industry and hiring someone with familiarity of these issues will provide you with increased assurance that you are in fact doing what is right for your business.
During your initial interview, don’t be afraid to ask very specific questions about their experience and knowledge of your particular industry and needs. Someone comfortable with their breadth of knowledge will not be afraid to let you know they need to look into something further if they don’t have an immediate answer, or alternatively, you will get an insight into exactly why this is the best person for your needs based on their answers. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for specific examples of work they have done similar to what you are seeking. Questions such as “have you drafted similar contracts”, “do you have any other current clients that offer services such as mine”, and “what do you like most about serving similarly focused small businesses” can help drive the interview and provide you with the information you need to determine if this is a good fit.
What is my budget?
This is a big one. And in determining your budget there may be room for flexibility. Perhaps you are just starting out and don’t require the most experienced CPA or attorney in the field. Or maybe you have a background in accounting; and while some of your issues are very complex, you only need advice in regards to those items but will continue to personally oversee the bulk of the accounting responsibilities yourself. What is imperative to determine when considering budget, however, is your limit. Do you have a certain amount in mind to cover a specific project? Or are you looking to enter into a monthly agreement? It’s wise to have an estimated max amount for services set before you embark on the interview process. Discussing this number during the interview will help you understand how the candidate discusses important matters such as cost, and they may also offer insight as to what you can expect to receive at that amount.
Also, try to familiarize yourself with industry standards. This doesn’t have to be done through multiple interviews but can oftentimes be ascertained via a phone call or visiting websites. Once you have a group of candidates, then you can more closely compare their qualifications and cost.
Hiring another professional to assist with a specific component of your business is a big step, but if you break down the task, and are thoughtful about the process you will find the time and investment well worth it. To help you with this task, we have put together a recommended list of attorneys and CPAs.
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