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Employing an accountant and retaining legal counsel are two important, but often overlooked, tasks that ensure your new business is running smoothly and free of expensive legal and financial missteps. Let’s take a look at some important points to consider when hiring a lawyer and accountant for your small business.
Hiring a lawyer
Avoiding future legal roadblocks by hiring a lawyer at the start of your business is a great way to save yourself money and headaches.
There are many situations where your business will need the assistance of a lawyer, such as drafting, reviewing and negotiating contracts, as well as securing intellectual property rights. If you are in the startup phase, you will likely need a lawyer for the formation of your business, patents, trademarks and contracts. If you are an existing business, you may need a lawyer for potential lawsuits, hiring and firing, as well as debt collections.
While the idea of having a single go-to lawyer might sound ideal, lawyers specialize in different areas, so make sure to have your needs in mind and search for a law firm that specializes in those areas. A larger law firm typically comes with a larger price tag, but usually retains each of these specializations under one roof.
You should think about your lawyer as an integral part of your business team, so retaining a lawyer who has experience working with small businesses is important. It’s also important to vet your new lawyer like you would a new employee. Asking questions like “What’s your experience?”, “Do you work with other clients in my industry?” and “What is your billing process?” is a great way to decide if this counsel is right for your small business.
Hiring an accountant
There are three main categories of accounting services: recording transactions, assembling transactions, and generating returns and financial statements. Recording and assembling transactions requires a lower skill level than generating returns and financial statements, but if you are working with a single firm for every purpose, it is likely that they will charge you the same rate for each service — which is why it’s important to know exactly what you need at the outset.
There are two options to consider when hiring an accountant for your small business: a certified public accountant or a bookkeeper. A bookkeeper typically comes at a lower cost than a CPA because they don’t possess the same level of formal education. No matter which option you choose, it’s important to make sure that your accountant can properly manage your accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, bank reconciliation and taxes, as applicable.
A good way to find an accountant is to get a referral from a trusted banker, business colleagues, a Nevada Small Business Development Center advisor, or by visiting the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants. After receiving the referral, it’s important to interview your referrals (similar to your prospective lawyer) to make sure they are a good fit for you and your business. The main things that you should consider when it comes to interviewing your referrals are their services, personality and fees. Some questions to consider asking your prospective accountant include: “Does your office offer specialized services or have another trusted firm they refer to?”, “Will you be the accountant I work directly with?” and “What is your office’s fee structure?”.
Now that you know what to look for in a small business lawyer and accountant, it’s time to ask for referrals from business colleagues, your trusted banker, or a Nevada Small Business Development Center advisor. To be paired up with a Nevada SBDC advisor that fits your needs, fill out the new client assessment today at nsbdc.ecenterdirect.com/signup.
Rod Jorgensen, director of counseling for the Nevada SBDC (www.nevadasbdc.org), helps aspiring and current small business owners overcome the challenges of operating a business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NCET (www.NCET.org) is a member-supported nonprofit organization that helps people explore business and technology.