"My company ought to have more cash in the bank. When I asked my Controller about it, he didn't have a good response. In fact, he turned red-faced and seemed super-anxious about my query. I'm beginning to think he's stealing from me."
"Our CFO just got bad news from her doctor and she must go on medical leave for two months. Do you have anyone on your staff who can fill in for her while she's out?"
"We've recently been having discussions with an out-of-state company that we're considering acquiring. Could we get your firm to perform due-diligence procedures on our behalf...to help us know how to proceed?"
"I'm representing a client who suspects his brother, who has served for eight years as sole trustee of their deceased Dad's multi-million dollar estate, may have misappropriated over $500,000 of the funds under his control. We need to have a complete forensic accounting of the trust to help us litigate the case. Can your firm handle this for us?"
These are just a few examples of the types of calls partners in CPA firms sometimes receive from their clients or referral sources. Larger accounting firms, those with many in-house professionals having a wide-variety of specialized experience and skills, will generally be able to quickly answer "Yes" to these and other requests for non-routine accounting services. That's not the case, however, in the majority of small and mid-sized firms.
Most CPA firms across America focus on two broad practice areas: Income tax planning and return preparation, and financial statement audits, reviews, and compilations. One of two things generally occurs when their current or prospective clients need assistance with "non-traditional" assignments: 1) They will refer the work to someone else, or simply say, "No, we can't help you," or 2) the firm will attempt to take on certain of these projects, knowing that they are not best-equipped to complete the assignments in a quality fashion. Either way, the firm is faced with turning-down potentially lucrative client assignments, or struggling through inefficient and unprofitable jobs which might well lead to upset clients, and in turn, a malpractice lawsuit.
If you have experience with this dilemma, whether from the CPA firm's perspective, or from that of the client or referral source, I'd like to hear from you, and I'm sure this blog's audience would as well. Please tell us about situations you've experienced and their outcomes. Also, what creative ways have you experienced or observed, or what ideas do you have, as to how small and mid-sized CPA firms might best equip themselves to capture and profitably handle "non-traditional" engagements?"
Note: Visit my newest blog, "Niche+ for CPA Firms"