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Swimming With Sharks

Count Me In

Even the best accountant can't guarantee your success, but he or she can still be the most important adjunct to your business. Carefully choose someone who understands general small-business problems and your particular type of business.

Just starting out? Confer with an accountant to design an accounting system, plan a tax strategy, prepare a business plan and get advice on the best form of business to establish. Already operating? Your accountant can help you manage money, customize retirement plans, generate financial reports, deal with the IRS and more.

To begin, get referrals from your banker, attorney and other entrepreneurs in your community. Make a point of also asking people in the same business sector (service, retail, restaurant, manufacturing, etc.). Then personally interview at least three prospects to ensure your levels of comfort and trust. Ask what experience the person has in your type of business, and get a clear picture of all fees.

Independent accountants or small accounting firms can provide personalized service, while a Big Five firm offers more services and can lend prestige to your company, smoothing the way to raising capital, establishing credit and opening doors. But don't use an accountant to pay the bills, make bank deposits and the like; a bookkeeper is just as effective and much less costly.

For more on choosing an accountant or for referrals, call the National Society of Accountants at (800) 966-6679.

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This article was originally published in the March 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Swimming With Sharks.

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