Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Talk About Focusing on a Niche

At my Firm, we focus on a few niches - SEC auditing, franchisors/franchisees, broker/dealers and increasingly restaurant groups.  But we still do lots of work that doesn't fall in any of those niches.

Which made an experience I had yesterday make me think about this.

We're located in Detroit, but almost all of our niche clients are located outside of Detroit.  We travel a lot.  And it looks like I'm going to Russia and possibly China sometime in the next month.

I went yesterday to a place called Passport Health Michigan which I think is a franchise of Passport Health USA.  My partner and one of our staff went there last year for immunizations before a trip to China, and now it was my turn.

What an incredible experience.  I called to make my appointment, and they asked me where I was going.  I arrived a couple of hours later, and they had a spiral bound document for me with all of the information I could possibly need for travelling to Russia and China.  The document included:
  • Recommended immunizations
  • Health issues
  • Travel tips
  • General information about the countries
  • Visa requirements
  • And more
The nurse operating the office was incredibly knowledgeable and helped me make informed decisions about what shots to get.  In case I go to China, I got pills to prevent malaria.  They had diarrhea kits (ok unpleasant subject) but I got some pills just in case.  They also had other kits and travel accessories.  
Essentially, it was a one stop place to find out everything I needed to know before going on these trips.

This is giving me a lot to think about.  We are very good at the niches we focus on.  As auditors, can we be more "one stop" all you need to know like this business?  I haven't figured that one out yet.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Aggravated with Auditing Standards

I attended a PPC seminar in September 2007 on implementing the then new auditing standards.  One of the highlights for me was a session led by, if my memory is correct, Harold Monk, the chair of the Auditing Standards Board.  The part that really stuck with me was when he said something to like the following:

Our goal is that every company that has an audit of their financial statements will use two CPA Firms - one to help them with their year-end close, and the second to do the independent audit.
I understand their logic.  I just don't agree with it.  Did they think about asking the ultimate purchasers of an audit, namely the business entities, if they wanted this?  

We do a lot of audits - primarily SEC audits but also a good number of audits of privately held entities.  I can assure you the privately held companies were not overly excited to hear this.  To their minds, two CPA Firms = a needless increase in fees.

I can't argue with them.  Prior to these changes in the standards, one firm could generally help with the closing and drafting the financial statements, including the notes.  Let's be realistic - there aren't many small businesses that can do this themselves.  They may have a very good controller with a good knowledge of GAAP, but maybe they left public accounting and don't want to stay on top of the continuing changes in accounting standards (another sore point with me but that can wait for another day).  So the auditor did the adjustments on some complex accounts and drafted the statements and notes.  

The Auditing Standards Board decides this can't continue.  Again, I understand their logic - the auditor shouldn't be a part of an entities system of internal controls.  

But it just isn't likely that two CPA firms will do this for the same amount of fees.  And how does this help the business entity?  I still just don't get it.

There are times an audit client will ask us to adjust something like deferred taxes for them.  We have to tell them to try and do so themselves.  Then we audit it and fix it.  This is just plain inefficient for the audit client.  They waste time doing something they can't do.  We have to post an adjustment that says something like "To correct error in deferred taxes" where in the past we'd have said something like "To adjust deferred taxes to actual."  Do you think the client likes seeing "To correct error"?  I can assure you some get irritated and don't like hearing "that is what the standards require."

All of these standards lead to a tremendous amount of checklists that need to be prepared.  I have a small franchisor that I audit.  It literally takes me under 30 minutes to test 100% of the transactions.  The required checklists - at least 6 hours.  This doesn't make sense.

I'm hoping some sanity comes in this area.  Of course, if and when it does, I'm going to have to redo all of my audit documentation once again.  

It just doesn't end, does it?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Announcing A Name Change

Maddox Ungar Silberstein, PLLC Announces Name Change to “Silberstein Ungar, PLLC”

Nationally recognized CPA Firm Adds Staff and Expands Deeper into Audits of Public Companies, Franchise Businesses, and Broker Dealers

Bingham Farms, MI, February 2, 2010 – Maddox Ungar Silberstein, PLLC, a nationally recognized public accounting and audit firm, with services primarily focused within the publicly traded company, franchise, and broker dealer industries, announced today that it has changed its name to Silberstein Ungar, PLLC. The firm also announced recent additions of audit staff, as part of a significant investment in expanding its Public Company and Broker/Dealer practice groups. Silberstein Ungar, PLLC provides a complete range of high-level assurance, tax and consulting services to numerous clients throughout the US, Canada, Asia, and Europe.

According to Joel Ungar, Principal and 2003 firm founder, “It has long been our clear and strong vision to grow our audit practice to meet the increasing needs of our rapidly expanding client base. Our continued growth and expansion in the SEC, Broker/Dealer and Franchise sectors provides us with an ideal opportunity to carve out a distinct identity. It enables us to further become one of the prominent, “go-to” firms in the small to mid-sized business community. The name change to ‘Silberstein Ungar, PLLC’ reflects the departure of John Maddox from the Firm and reflects our dedicated commitment to charting the course for firm growth, as well as improved client service, in a more cohesive way.”

“As part of this initiative, the firm is thrilled to announce that Dave Kobylarek, CPA and Seth Gorback have each been promoted to Audit Manager, and we welcome Cary Hammond, CPA and John Chirco, both new members of our audit staff. Each has Big Four audit experience and will help us better serve our clients.”

According to Ron Silberstein, Principal and head of the firm’s SEC Audit and Franchisor Audit Practices, “Throughout our firm’s existence, we have held an unparalleled commitment to our clients - and this won't change – in fact, it will improve. Our office is still in the same location, with the same mailing address, phone and fax number. The only external change is the name on the door which will now be SILBERSTEIN UNGAR, PLLC; internally, however, we have a heightened focus on client responsiveness, and an expanded, more experienced team to serve them.”

About Silberstein Ungar, PLLC

Silberstein Ungar, PLLC is a boutique CPA firm headquartered in Bingham Farms, MI. In addition to providing a range of accounting, tax and consulting services to small and mid-sized businesses, the firm is a top 20 auditor of publicly traded companies and has extensive experience in working with Franchise businesses and broker/dealers. It is a member of the MSI Global Alliance of Independent Legal and Accounting Firms and has clients located throughout the US, Canada, Asia, and Europe.