SELECTING A PROFESSIONAL SERVICE PROVIDER
Selecting a Professional Accountant or Management Consultant
Sooner or later everyone may need to choose a professional accountant or a management consultant. There comes a time in every business and to some extent, in personal matters, when the services of a management consultant and/or a professional accountant are required. This need can arise inter alia at various points, such as:
• The planning stage in a new business venture.
• The acquisition or divestiture of a business or investment interest in a business.
• Accessing funding from lenders and creditors for which business plans and financial proposals are fundamental imperatives.
• Preparation of tax returns for the business or the owner or defending against excessive tax assessments by the tax authorities.
• At the insistence of a potential or current lender or a regulatory agency.
• In the evaluation of your accounting and information systems or the development of strategic planning.
• In cases of litigation where damages need to be quantified.
• In retirement, estate, investment and tax planning.
This process of selecting a consultant and/or an accountant can be confusing and frustrating, so it is best to develop a checklist to assist in the engaging of such a person(s):
1. Establish what functions you require the consultant or accountant to fulfill. This list could include the following but not limited thereto:
• Preparation, review or audit of financial statements at least on an annual basis.
• Tax planning and preparation of tax returns for both corporate and personal.
• Review of your present accounting and projections.
• Assistance with cash flow statements.
• Assistance in dealing with the tax authorities and other regulatory agencies.
• Assistance in presentations to your Banker.
• Review of lease versus purchase decisions.
• Evaluation of a business sale or purchase.
• Planning for change in business organization such as the incorporation of a proprietorship.
• Development of a personal financial plan.
2. Define your immediate needs and the time frame in which they must be handled. “As an illustration” – If the tax department is demanding a tax return, the time frame is probably less flexible than if you are planning a new business venture.
3. Assess your level of management and accounting knowledge. If you have little background in managing and accounting be sure the consultant or accountant you choose can explain accounting, finance and management concepts and/or new ideas in a simple yet effective manner. An expert that you cannot understand will be of little help regardless of his or her technical correctness concerning the advice.
4. Determine how accessible you wish your consultant or accountant to be in all instances. If you are in a crisis situation, you may need someone who will be available by telephone or by appointment immediately. Do you need to go to his or her office? If so, is it a convenient location? Alternatively, you may wish the professional(s) to come to your place of business, in the name of convenience, even though this may incur extra cost.