A few weeks ago, Tracy Coenen of Sequence Inc and the The Fraud Files Blog interviewed me in preparation for an article for the Journal of Accountancy on establishing a small forensic accounting practice. She is regular girl but obviously has big ambitions. The Journal of Accountancy? I don’t swing in those crowds anymore. Fortunately, as Vice President of our ISACA Chapter here in Chicago, I can get an article in our newsletter once a year if I twist a few arms.
Large firms have all of the infrastructure in place and already paid for to support a large proposal effort and a large, long engagement. Forensic engagements tend to be intense and may involve extensive travel, sometimes international. That means professionals are not in the office to develop proposals for the next engagement. It helps to have a team back home that can tie all the information together in a professional way, with prior project qualifications, team bios, latest though leadership, etc, while the professional are on site with other clients.
What can small firms/practices do to differentiate themselves from the large firms?
Highlight your expertise, industry or technical. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Exploit that focus into a competitive advantage. Make yourself the “go-to” firm, first-choice, for specific types of engagements. Have senior members of the firms spend more hands-on time with clients. This is going by the wayside fast in large firms. Make quality #1. The large firms take it for granted, since they hire “best and brightest” and spend a lot of time and money on training. But do they know for sure this mantra sticks in the hearts and minds of their professionals when they’re out alone at a client with no one checking in on them often enough?
Do smaller practices have any opportunities to partner with larger firms or make strategic alliances that could be mutually beneficial?
Where is the future of the huge accounting firm going? And how can a small forensic accounting practice best develop its business and customer base in light of this?
Can you speak to the true depth and breadth of experience in the large firms? Smaller practices sometimes get eliminated from consideration for a project because it is assumed that the larger firm brings more experience, expertise, and resources to the table. Is this really true? If so, how can small practices deal with this from a competitive viewpoint? If it’s not true, how can small practices make this more well-known without looking like they’re bashing the big firms
Where do you see the future of forensic accounting going, especially in light of increased scrutiny on corporate governance? More investigations, more investigations, more investigations. It was backdating last year, it will continue to be FCPA and now it’s subprime and insider trading related to these big earnings/loss announcements and the acquisitions like the JPM/Bear bailout. It’s going to be something every year for a while…