What is your typical process for working with a new client?

Every business and family situation is unique. Initial interviews are very important.

During our initial interviews, our staff will review your situation, concerns, goals, budget, and time frame. It is also an opportunity for prospective clients to meet our staff, understand our firm’s culture, and see how our firm can work to meet their needs.

What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?

Our Firm has several different levels of experts.

Our Partners have Doctorates or Master degrees in either business, accounting, or law, and have 10-20 years of experience in their fields of expertise. They are our firm’s experts.

Our Senior Associates usually have advanced degrees and over ten years of experience. They assist clients with complicated tax situations, financial analysis, and business licensing.

Our Junior Associates are tax and accounting professionals. They are our techinical experts in Intuit and other accounting software. They are also well versed in local, state and federal tax filing requirements.

Our Support Staff are the bookkeeping gurus of the firm. They are QuickBooks Pro Advisors and very effective with reducing data entry times and streamlining the client experience with “Smart Technology” apps.

Do you have a standard pricing system?

Our pricing reflects the level of expertise needed to complete a client’s project or accomplish their normal accounting needs.

After an initial interview, we can provide clients with an estimate breaking down of the projected cost of services. We also have a pricing guide, available upon request, to better assist customers with understanding our fee structure.

We do offer numerous discounts for startup and small businesses, veterans and military personnel, first responders, etc. Our discounts can range from 25-75% off of select service fees. Please ask us about it!

How did you get started?

In 2012, our CEO left her day job as a loan underwriter and servicer to started her practice, after repeated requests for debt management, student loan assistance, and credit counseling consultations from friends, family, and neighbors. In 2014, she moved to Washington with her husband and cat. She decided to put her years as a Project Accountant & Payroll Specialist for large Engineering and Construction firms to good use assisting small to medium size business owners. Lockhart Professional Services now offers a wide range of personal and business services.

What types of customers have you worked with?

We specialize in working with startups and small business owners. As such, we have worked with a wide varied of businesses.

Describe a recent event you are fond of.

We love our clients and their stories. It is an honor to learn hear about their adventures and help them where we can.

We are extremely proud of the refunds and tax savings we found for our customers this tax season. Almost 80% of our clients receive refunds that they were not anticipating. One client who came to us with a tax bill of $16,500, from preparing it themselves on Turbo Tax, we got it down to just over $4,000. That was over $12,000 in savings for a tax preparation bill of $150.

What advice would you give a customer looking to hire a professional in your area of expertise?

Hiring an accounting professional is a lot like picking out your doctors.

Bookkeepers and Accounting Professionals are the nurses of our field. Like nurses and nurse practioners, the skill levels differ from within this area. Your basic bookkeeper needs to be have the techinical experience in your accounting software to perform data entry quickly and correctly. Higher education or many years of experience is required to make sure that data is being input correctly into the software so that reports can be run.

CPAs are like doctors. They have some form of advanced eduction and report to a supervising board. However, CPAs, like your general practitioner, due to their general education may not have the expertise in your industry to best serve your needs. CPAs may refer you to a specialist.

In general, a firm that has a healthy blend of several skill sets and carries professional insurance is a wise choice for any business owner.

What questions should customers think through before talking to professionals about their needs?
Most professionals charge clients hourly. We therefore recommend that anyone looking to engage a professional for services, first, checks what free resources are available to them.

For example, in Washington there is an organization called SCORE which is a nonprofit association of business mentors. We recommend that business owners start with one of their mentors. If professional services are needed, these mentors can help educate clients about what questions to ask and what areas to focus on. This saves clients time and money, no matter who they employ for their service needs.

The next thing that clients should consider are the qualifications needed for the services rendered to them. For example, CPAs charge at minimum $75 – $300 per hour. To save on accounting services, it is recommended that clients either prepare their own books, hire an internal bookkeeper, or check that the firm you are using has a bookkeeper. The cost of a bookkeeper is usually between $25 – $75 per hour.

Another really important tip is to check that the firm has professional liability insurance. When you hire a bookkeeper in-house or preparing your own books, the business owner has the sole responsibility for the accuracy of the books. Most tax preparers and CPAs will not audit your accounting records for accuracy and correctness. Likewise, most firms do not check your books unless you have engaged them for an audit. When you hire a bookkeeper through an accounting firm, you avoid payroll for the bookkeeper, that bookkeeper and their work is likely supervised by an accountant or CPA, and the firm carries insurance for any errors and omissions. Bookkeepers through accounting firms tend to cost more than hiring one in-house but again there is a tradeoff.