Expectations. As a profession, I firmly believe accountants exert great effort to reach the level of expectations that clients and end-users have of us when we deliver our final work. These expectations don’t just apply to a few of us – they apply to all of us in our firms on a daily basis. As a group, we CPAs are determined to achieve our individual goals, the goals of those we serve, and the needs of those that use our work – all the while reaching everyone’s expectations. Without any question or hesitation, I believe this is a good thing.

As practitioners, we are the translators for accurate and timely reporting of business transactions. We translate financial transactions for our clients, our end-users, creditors and regulatory bodies. And we do this with the intent of rewarding ourselves financially, while at the same time meeting the expectations of those who rely on our translation of those financial transactions.

Yes, we are pretty darn good at this. Where we need to be even better is in how we react to those whom have expectations of us. Can or should we control or even stop it? Heck no! What I believe we have to do as a profession is to increase our communication with these stakeholders. I think that as a profession, we accountants do not always do a good job communicating face-to-face (or even voice-to-voice) with these groups. We rely on written word for most of our communication. It’s my belief that anyone reading this as a practitioner probably has excellent written communications to and from these groups. Yes we do, our files are complete with written reports, engagement letters, tax organizers, client representation letters, communication letters to management, and communication letters to those charged with governance. Yes, we do. Each and every one of us has perfect written documentation of required (or even not required) written communications.

I recently read a quote from one of CPAmerica’s newer member firms, Honkamp Krueger & Co., P.C. It said this, “Every successful business has good accounting and good people.” I had never seen words put together in such eloquent, but simple and accurate phrasing. What does that quote have to do with the expectations of those using and relying on our translation of financial transactions? I believe the answer is: a lot. Taking some privilege from our new friends at Honkamp Kruger, I believe we are part of the good accounting and the good people who contribute to the success of those we serve.   To complete this thought, better communication will increase our contribution to our clients, because good people, including us as accountants or tax advisors, assist with good accounting by communicating more and in better ways than just through the plethora of written communications we deliver to our clients.

Am I saying that written communications, regardless of where the requirement originates, are worthless or should be removed from being required? Again, heck no. Required written communications are chock-full of good information and show our mutual understanding with those using, needing or requiring information in writing. I would in no way advocate deleting them, nor do I possess the knowledge and ability to increase their effectiveness, but, I believe we all can take additional time to communicate verbally with our stakeholders and increase our level of communication and thereby perhaps increase our chances of reaching the expectation-level of those same groups.

My thoughts here are certainly not going to do anything to increase the efficiency of any engagement regardless of level or type of service. How I wish someone could bottle efficiency for all accountants to use in the conduct of their engagements; however, I do believe the increased communication (face-to-face or voice-to-voice) for those who prefer to stay in the office will assist them in meeting the expectations of those whom they are communicating with and perhaps provide us with a cross-section of a problem that they would not get through written documentations. This could quite possibly lead to additional services that they could provide to their clients.

Our profession is one of constant change. It’s been about 30 years since auditing standards were developed to specifically address stakeholder expectations and what we as auditors are required to do to bridge any expectation gap. Did those standards work or help? Sure they did. Did they fulfill all needs? No. I base my answers on the number of additional standards that have been issued over the last 30 years in order to continually work with the expectation gap. This will only continue and I believe it should.

Now, as usual, I have returned to a subject area more known to me, accounting and auditing. To close, auditing requirements are going to continue to increase. That increase will include more and more communication from the auditor in order to meet the expectations of users of our translation of financial transactions. We are going to be asked to report on more matters of emphasis, our thoughts concerning future events of the entity we are reporting on, and perhaps make affirmative statements as going concern, internal controls, and laws and regulations. That’s good for accountants today and will be good for those joining our profession tomorrow.

Without expectations, where would any profession be? I look forward to continuing the pursuit of striving to meet the expectations of my clients.

Arthur Winstead, Jr., CPA, CFE, CFF, CGMA
Arthur Winstead, Jr., CPA, CFE, CFF, CGMA

Art Winstead, CPA, CFE, CFF, CGMA, is a general services partner in DMJ’s Greensboro office, primarily serving in the firm's Accounting, Auditing, and Attestation Services Area. He serves as team captain and team member for on-site peer reviews and off-site engagement reviews throughout the country and the State of North Carolina. In addition, Art currently serves as the A&A Consultant-Director for CPAmerica Inc. 

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