The Western Union Business Solutions Learning Center is a blog provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, tax or accounting advice. Consult your own independent advisors regarding your particular needs and circumstances.
When running a small business, every day is a new challenge — from finding new ways to serve customers to simply managing day-to-day operations. So, when it comes to financial management, some small business owners may require an extra set of hands. A certified public accountant (CPA) can not only provide traditional accounting services, but can also help business owners make decisions about how to work with foreign currencies, mitigate financial risks abroad and prevent losses due to fluctuations in currency exchange rates — all of which are vital to business profitability.
When choosing a CPA, foreign or domestic, it’s important to find a person who has the right combination of experience, knowledge and small business acumen.
Here are some tips to help small business owners make a wise choice.
— James Berkeley, director of Berkeley Burke International
First and foremost, business owners should search for an accountant who understands the intricacies of their business, the kinds of international transactions the business will make and the types of vendors specific to its industry, says Tiffany Washington, owner of Washington Accounting Services in Waldorf, Md. “Give them some common scenarios to judge whether they are familiar with your needs,” she suggests.
A good accountant, whether local or abroad, should be able to provide references as part of the review process, says Tadd Rosenfeld, CEO of TeamLauncher.com, a Miami-based global staffing firm with offices in the Philippines and India. Interviewing an accountant’s existing clients is one of the best ways to get a sense of his or her strengths and weaknesses. “You want to be sure the people you work with are reputable and will provide good service to you as a customer,” Rosenfeld says.
When considering potential accountants, business owners should ask detailed questions about how they would handle common issues. Their advice about hedging currency fluctuations, international taxes or managing local regulations can inform a business owner about their capabilities, Rosenfeld says. “Once you have a few of those conversations, you’ll get a sense of who is the right person to hire.”
When it comes to international accounting services, most large firms have relationships with independent accountants around the world and can make recommendations in the country where business is conducted, says Dave Stene, partner at Eide Bailly LLP, an accounting firm in Minneapolis. “That way, if an issue comes up that requires an accountant in a foreign location, they can help you find the resource you need.”
“Business owners should ask their bank, legal and tax advisers, local business partners or clients for recommendations,” says James Berkeley, director of Berkeley Burke International, a management-consulting firm based in London. “You should give the potential accountant a couple of examples of your typical work needs and ask them to explain how they would best support you. The criteria should be an individual who can display a track record of success working with organizations that closely fit your profile, a proficiency with your home and international taxes and business practices, trust and personal chemistry. Don’t leave this to chance or a casual recommendation; do the due diligence yourself.”
By practicing due diligence and taking the necessary steps, business owners can improve their odds of finding a dependable accountant who can manage the financial side of doing business overseas. Although it takes an investment of time, it can make a world of difference when navigating the complexities and opportunities of international business.
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