Over the course of the last year I have I have met with and interviewed dozens of CFOs. Although they come from different backgrounds and work with organisations in a variety of industries it is quite amazing to note the common threads they have in their thinking of working with external accounting firms. One such thread is the importance of understanding the client’s business and not assuming anything.
Here is a quote from Ashley Selwood, CFO, Australian Rugby Union.
… I find at times that external accountants already have some preconceived ideas about what the solution is before they spend the time to actually get to know our business. We’re a sport and nine out of ten people who walk in the door are either followers of Rugby or at the very least know a bit about Rugby. When you’re dealing with sport there’s a lot more heart than head involved and sometimes people will walk in the door as a consultant or an accountant and the first thing they’ll do is spend an hour telling you what’s wrong with the Wallabies! Once you get through that, they always seem to have quite fixed ideas of what the solutions are without actually spending the time to get to know our business. In my view this is a fundamental mistake. It not only applies to accountants but all other external professional consultants irrespective of their discipline.
Ashley goes on further to cite some interesting examples of how accountants have come into the business and not really taken the time and effort to invest in really understanding their business. Too often accountants assume too much without first asking their client questions. As my dad used to say to me when I was growing up (and still does) when you ASSUME you make an ASS of U and ME!
The morale of this post – don’t be an ASS! (or a donkey for the non-Americans out there).
All my best