Working with your CPA

While audit and tax work are clearly
the most recognizable services provided in the public accounting profession, CPA firms provide many more specialty services. In fact, a CPA should be a
business’s most trusted adviser, according
to Maureen Lucey Mihelich, a partner in the
Consulting Group at Burr Pilger Mayer.

“Every business, no matter its size, needs
the expertise normally provided by a full-fledged accounting and finance group,” she
says. “The problem for many companies is
that they don’t need all these skills on a full-time basis. What many companies don’t
realize is that they have the option of bringing in an accounting team or CFO on a temporary basis.”

Client accounting services encompass
many service areas, including budgeting,
forecasting and cash flow management services to help businesses benchmark their
progress. They can aid in expansion or even
restructure plans. A qualified provider can
research, select and implement accounting
or record-keeping systems for everything
from general ledgers to inventory management. Many CPA firms also offer a virtual
accounting department to tackle tasks from
financial and management reporting to meeting regulatory compliance requirements.

“The inability to obtain and utilize timely
financial and operational data could hinder a
growing company’s ability to react to
changes in its industry.”

Smart Business spoke to Maureen Lucey
Mihelich about how businesses can benefit
from the many skill sets a CPA can offer.

In what types of industries are your clients?

My clients run the gamut from professional
service firms to businesses in the manufacturing and hospitality industries. I find that,
though these business owners and operators
are experts in their specialty area or industry,
they lack the critical eye of a financial expert
to meet the financial management requirements of their growing business.

What do management advisory services

Every type of business needs financial
services expertise, but how much varies from business to business. If you have a
business with 100 employees, it is not likely
there will be a 10-person accounting department. You may only need a controller or
CFO a few days a month, or you might need
a team of people at the end of the year for
peak projects, such as preparing for a year-end audit.

Using your CPA firm to provide these client
accounting and/or management advisory
services can fill these needs without hiring a
team of employees. A CPA can be utilized to
assist a business owner with major decisions,
such as expanding a business or offering a
new product line. We often assist clients in
determining important financing options. For
example, should the existing owners make
additional investments in their business or
seek funding via bank financing or outside

In some cases, the challenge is how to
assist a client when the business isn’t succeeding. What does it need to consider to
restructure or, perhaps, change focus? The
goal of client accounting and management
advisory services is to assist clients by helping them run their business more efficiently
and effectively. Sometimes, the best resource
a CPA can provide is to play the role of devil’s advocate or to be that fresh set of eyes that
looks at their situation from an objective,
long-term point of view.

What other services can a CPA offer?

By providing client accounting services, a
CPA can outsource the entire accounting and
finance team for a client in a consistent and
cost-effective manner. Family Office Services, also provided by many CPA firms, provide similar financial record-keeping and
investment management services for individuals and families.

The beauty of looking to your CPA to provide these services is that you can hire only
what you need, when you need it. Many
clients already have a certain level of
accounting personnel and use their CPA firm
to fill in the pieces they don’t have. Other
clients count on their CPA firm to provide
recurring assistance just for specialty projects, such as quarterly reporting to their venture partners or other investors. When the
business grows to the right level, they can
then bring in full-time accounting and finance
employees to meet the next phase of their

What should I look for when hiring an expert
to perform client accounting services?

When meeting with a firm, have the CPA
suggest some possible plans of action for
your situation. The right CPA firm is going to
know your industry and its challenges and
opportunities. It will be able to help you
establish the best practices needed to operate efficiently within that industry. Your CPA
firm should assist you to see what lies ahead
for you as your business expands and position you to be ready to meet that growth.

So use your accounting dollars wisely, hire
the right level of internal staff to meet your
current business requirements, and then
bring in your CPA firm to provide periodic
additional expertise during the times of your
business year that make the most sense.

MAUREEN LUCEY MIHELICH is a partner in the Consulting Group at Burr Pilger Mayer. Reach her at [email protected] or
(415) 421-5757.