Choosing an accounting service that’s the right fit is one of the most important business decisions you’ll ever make. Make a wise choice and you will secure the services of an effective partner who will invest time and expertise in making your enterprise grow and prosper. But if your selection method is just the online equivalent of throwing a dart in the dark, you could be creating more problems instead of solving them. Here’s what you really need to do.

Think about what you expect your accountant to deliver

Do you want your accountant to simply take away your routine bookkeeping and tax compliance problems, including any backlog you may have? Or maybe you’re looking for a broader service, including bank reconciliations, payroll, sales tax, depreciation schedules, management reporting and tax planning. Selecting an experienced firm like Interactive Accountants, flexible enough to accommodate whatever level of service you may require—both now and in the future—would be a shrewd move.

Look for professional certification

A bookkeeper and an accountant are not one and the same. You may not think that your bookkeeping and tax preparation need to be done by a Certified Public Accountant, but as your business expands and becomes more complex, or if you ever need an audit, you’ll be glad to have a CPA in your corner. Not only do CPAs undergo rigorous training and meet examination and experience requirements, they must also demonstrate Continuing Professional Education in order to maintain their licensure. You’ll want to choose an accounting service with CPAs in the team.

Decide whether location is important

Gone are the days when you needed to hand-deliver a shoebox full of receipts to your local accountant. In the age of cloud-based technology, look for an accountant proficient in online software like Xero and Quickbooks. You can communicate using email, phone and video chats, and both you and your accountant can easily exchange securely encrypted data and reports online.

So it doesn’t really matter whether your accountant is in Miami or Milwaukee, provided you are getting the level of dedicated assistance and regular contact that you need. But if your market sector requires local knowledge, you may need to search closer to home. Just make sure your accounting service, whatever its location, is the one best suited to your needs—even if you still start with receipts in a shoebox.

Ask for references

You’re entitled to ask for references to back up any claims an accounting firm makes about its level of service, years of experience, professional expertise and continuous accessibility. If they can’t provide evidence of satisfied customers, chances are they don’t have any.

Expect value for money and flexible options

No two businesses are identical, and nor are the areas in which they need accounting assistance. But there’s no need to settle for a ‘one size fits all’ approach from your accountant. Expect them to be upfront about pricing, and to offer a variety of servicing levels so that you can choose what suits you, and if necessary start small and upgrade as your business grows.

Your chosen accountant should be proactive and flexible, staffed by certified professionals, easily accessible regardless of location, and a source of value-for-money expertise coupled with personalized service backed up by client references. You’re probably looking for a firm like Interactive Accountants.