6 Questions to Ask When Interviewing a New Construction Accounting Firm
August 18, 2020 - Whether you're growing, restructuring, cleaning house, or just want to know your options, one of the most valuable things you can do when looking for a new construction CPA is to be curious.
When you sit down with a construction accounting firm, you're probably already asking the basic questions: "How often will we meet?" "How much are your fees?" "What other clients do you work with?" These are all great ways to start feeling out a CPA, but most will be able to answer them in more or less similar ways, and they often won't give you a better picture of how the firm can serve your business's unique needs.
Next time you meet with a new CPA, ask these questions to go find out who the CPA really is, what makes them different, and how they can add value to your business that no other accounting firm can.
"What Experience Do You Have in the Construction Industry?"
Many accounting firms have construction clients. What matters is how well-versed they are in the specifics and nuances of construction accounting as well as how dedicated their construction accounting professionals are. Ask a potential new CPA what's going to be most important for construction companies to consider from an accounting standpoint and what else their construction industry experts focus on at the company.
Another way to approach this question is to ask about their policy on sharing insights gleaned from other clients. The greater the number of construction clients the firm works with, the more experience they have in the industry, and the more insights and relevant information they'll be able to share. That way, you can discover the challenges and opportunities their other clients are experiencing and how the firm addresses them.
"What Value Can You Bring to My Company?"
A term like 'value' can mean almost anything you want. The important thing is to define your own metric of value in your initial meetings with a new CPA, and then ask them to measure themselves against your expectations. Will you need more than tax credits? Are you interested in taking advantage of specific accounting opportunities based on your industry, size, or location? Ask the firm how they would not just approach your goals, but how they can help you discover new ones, too.
"Who Is on the Team That'll Be Working With My Company?"
In many cases, the person you meet with first at a new CPA isn't part of the team you'll be working with in the months and years to come. It's important to know the strengths and expertise of not just the firm at large, but the individuals you'll turn to for accounting advice and guidance. The person and people in this client manager position are at the crux of your relationship with any CPA, so get to know the pool of expertise you'll have access to.
"How Do You Measure the Effectiveness of Your Work?"
Ask what processes the CPA has in place to keep themselves accountable and internally aligned with your goals. In addition to new ideas that can work for your company, a great CPA will have a team-wide culture of accountability and client partnership at the center of their work, including inter-departmental meetings to generate new perspectives and ideas relevant to your goals.
"Can You Do [X] for Me by This Date?"
If it's not already established, a schedule will naturally form in your discussions with a new CPA. But prompting the firm to perform a certain service by a certain date can reveal their commitment to helping you meet deadlines most important to your business. It can also help you gauge their capacity to take you on as a client.
"What Makes You Different From Your Competitors?"
This question can't be answered to its fullest extent on an RFP, but every CPA should know what differentiates them from their competition. For some, it's size; for others, it's personal service, undivided attention, and deep knowledge of the opportunities and threats that exist in your industry. Pay attention to how they talk about their company and how those differentiators line up with their reputation and references.
In the back-and-forth of interviewing and meeting representatives of a new CPA, asking the right questions is the best way to get the information you need to make a decision, and it can also give you and the accounting firm an intimate understanding of each other's expectations, laying the groundwork for a strong, beneficial partnership in the months and years to come.