Today's accounting professionals are strategic business leaders and should be able to demonstrate that they are much more than pure 'number crunchers', said David Jenkins, CPA Australia country manager for New Zealand this week.

"Strategies in international business, thought leadership, skills in communication and persuasion - these are some of the broader 'must-have' aptitudes of today's successful accounting professionals," said Jenkins.

CPA Australia, one of the world's largest accounting bodies, representing more than 144,000 finance and accounting professionals around the world, has developed the following tips to guide small businesses in selecting an accountant.

Professionally qualified
It's important that your accountant is professionally qualified and belongs to a professional accounting body. To retain their membership each year, members must complete a requisite number of professional development hours to ensure their qualifications remain current and they are following industry best practice. Membership also dictates they abide by a code of ethics and conduct.


Business consultant
A good accountant will help your business grow by bringing a wider commercial perspective to the partnership. For small businesses, your accountant should be a trusted business adviser and provide credible, strategic advice. They should be able to evaluate business problems and offer solutions. To do this successfully, your accountant will make the effort to understand your business and your product or service, right from the very first meeting.

A good relationship throughout the year
Regular, ongoing dialogue is a sign of a good partnership. Your accountant should be committed to building a strong rapport with you. The right accountant will speak with you on a regular basis and be happy to see you at your premises when it suits you. So look for an accountant who provides a proactive service, working with you throughout the year, not just at year end.

Complementary client portfolio
Whether you're a start-up or an established business it's important that you partner with an accountant that has experience relevant to your business. Find out who their clients are to establish if their experience suits the needs of your business. For example, if you're in the export game, seek an accounting professional with complementary experience.

There is a wide range of business management software on offer today; the right package has the power to dramatically improve small business capabilities. A good accountant must be fluent in the application of leading software packages. They should be able to recommend the appropriate accounting package to suit your business needs.