Ed O’Brien has 35 years of experience in the public accounting industry, much of it in publicly traded businesses. Currently, he serves as the managing partner of Grant Thornton LLP’s Dallas office. In his career, he has worked with many business owners to evaluate wealth creation alternatives related to their investment in their companies, and he has been significantly involved in numerous transactions involving business formations, purchases and combinations.
Q. In a struggling economy, how can a business get the most from its relationship with an accountant?
An open line of communication between the company and the accounting firm is critical in order for us to help in an up or a down economy. The more we know about their business challenges, the more we know about some of the issues that they face as an organization, the more we can be of assistance, providing ideas and opportunities for change.
Q. How might a company be able to save money when it comes to accounting costs?
The more prepared they are, the quicker we can get in and out. I always advise the companies I work with to make sure their books are completely closed before we walk in the door. One area that small- or middle-market companies might consider is having some temporary help come in to really make sure their books and records are clean, because they can employ those people much more cheaply than they can my people when we come in to do the audit work. Our charges are significantly higher than they can get in the marketplace for good accounting talent.
Q. How can an accountant save money for a company?
In a private company, cash flow is the name of the game. Any way we can assist them in identifying ways they can improve their cash flow, whether that’s through renegotiating with their vendors, consolidating vendors, we will do that. In addition, tax minimization and tax credits, especially in today’s environment are critically important. The less they pay, the more they can keep in their business and, in some instances, stay in business. Arizona, for example, provided significant credits for green initiatives. You look for all those additional ways to create cash for the organization.