Yes, you read that right. Speed dating your accountant is essential - just not exactly in the traditional sense usually associated with the term 'speed dating’!
What I’m suggesting is more around the importance of screening your startup's potential CPA for a variety of factors to see if you’d like to take your relationship further, and to avoid common pitfalls that may surface down the track.
So, here are four reasons why you should speed date your startup's accountant before bringing him or her on-board with your business:
1. Personality Assessment
This is necessary for a number of reasons but is mainly important simply to make sure that you’re actually going to enjoy working together. A stark disconnect in personalities or misaligned values or ideologies can greatly hinder a business relationship.
However, don’t just think about what you want, but also what you need by considering your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re a big-ideas, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type entrepreneur, then a detail-focused, suit-wearing accountant might seem like your opposite, but they could actually be exactly the balance that you need to keep your feet on the ground and your business out of the red.
2. Affinity for Technology
If technology and innovation are at the foundation of your startup, then it's important to have a CPA who also has a sound understanding of technology and business software.
Gauge his or her comfort level with using some the tools and software that are already an integral part of your company’s operations. You’ll also need to agree on the best way to communicate and share information. If your accountant insists only on corresponding via agenda-driven conference calls and lengthy email trails, whereas your startup communicates using platforms like Slack and HipChat, it’s obvious that communication breakdowns may cause inefficiencies down the road.
3. Degree of Passion
Entrepreneurial-minded people are driven by a genuine passion and love for what they're doing. Does your CPA believe in your business as much as you do? Are they excited by the prospect of working with you to achieve your dream? If your accountant is blase about your story and long-term vision, it’s unlikely that they’ll act in a true advisor role, and instead offer a more strict consultant role.
4. Risk Appetite
By nature, accountants are (typically) risk averse and sensible. However, it’s a stereotype that shouldn’t just be assumed. Whatever way your potential CPA is inclined, you'll want to make sure your approach to financial planning, and theirs, is in alignment. For example, if your vision is to follow a disruptive Uber-esque approach to business, but your accountant is hesitant to veer off the straight and narrow with respect to your financial strategy, then you'll inevitably end up regularly butting head and fail to achieve successful outcomes for your business.
The right CPA will provide advice tailored specifically to your startup needs. Do your research and take time to 'speed date' a range of CPAs before you make a decision to ensure they’re going to be the best fit for your business.