Choosing the right accountant or bookkeeper can be a vital part of your small business success. Ideally, they will become a trusted business partner and advisor— a colleague who provides strategic insights that improve your business performance.

So, how do you go about choosing someone that will go above and beyond just helping you avoid an audit (which, admittedly, is a big deal and is covered below)?

Here’s the top three things to consider when hiring an accountant:

Have they ever done the books for a business similar to yours? Just as important as finding a professional who understands the fundamentals of accounting is finding a professional who has experience working in your industry. Bookkeeping for a nail salon, a general contractor and a non-profit all have some basics in common but each industry has different tax laws, terms and aspects that can really only be learned on the job. Hiring an accountant who has worked with similar clients means that their learning curve will be much smaller.

Are they fluent in the accounting tech you are already using? Bookkeepers and accountants charge by the hour. You want to pay someone to do your books, not google “what’s the difference between Quickbooks Online and Xero?” During your research, make sure to ask them which systems they are familiar with. Or, if you don’t like the software and apps you’re currently using, ask them for some recommendations— you’ll get some clues as to how tech-savvy they are.

Are they proactive about helping your business grow? Ask your potential accountant what they would do to save your company money. Also ask if they have any warnings for you about potential pitfalls in your industry.

For example— what proportion of your operating costs do they think you can offset against tax? If you’re a sole proprietor, can you offset a percentage of your phone bill, car expenses and rent or mortgage payments? What are the implications?

A good accountant will tell you that using your home as a business premises could result in a tax charge levied on the house when you sell it and advise you on next steps. You don’t want a bookkeeper that advises you to evade taxes (illegal!!). You want a bookkeeper that can help you avoid paying large tax bills (totally legal!).

Make sure to keep these three things in mind while interviewing several candidates, conducting a background check on each of them and trusting your intuition, and you won’t choose wrong.