Specialization Wave of Future for Accounting

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By Nancy Raiden Titus Journal Record Staff Reporter Computers are changing the way accountants view their business. As low cost programs are available to run routine reports clients are less in need of a professional to generate the documents.

But that doesn't mean the need for accountants has dropped off. In fact, many small businesses are relying more on their accounting firm to function as the financial department of the company _ formulating everything from the business plan to the documents needed for financing.

"People need less and less in terms of paper products," said Susan Onstott, managing partner with Onstott & Craddick CPAs Inc., of 5001 N. Pennsylvania Ave. "Many times they don't understand it even if they get the paper."

The accountant's job is to explain the documents so that they are meaningful for the client. She said she would not feel that she had succeeded in her job if a client took the work back to his office and stuffed it in a drawer because he did not understand it.

Such a statement provides insight into Onstott's philosophy of accounting. With a new master's degree in social work under her belt, she integrates her accounting and people skills to provide a rounded professional service to clients.

"We take a holistic approach to the business," said Ronald E. Kozak, principal in the business financial and management consulting area of the independent Oklahoma City-based firm.

Specialization within the firm is the trend as tax laws become more complex and investments more sophisticated. Clients may find they need two or three accountants assigned to their case with specific expertise in different areas of the tax code. Kozak said accounting firms positioned for the future need to be able to offer a variety of financial services to clients, some of which will be developed later as technology advances.

The management consulting arm of the firm allows small businesses to have all the advantages of a full time department of business and finance professionals on a more cost effectiveness part-time basis.

"It is a small business climate in Oklahoma City with most companies having $3 million to $5 million in sales," he said. "Maybe there are 10 above that and then there are the companies like Kerr McGee. The traditional business we and most CPAs work with are the mom and pop businesses with $2 million to $3 million in sales. Often they are at a crossroads in their business life. They are growing, and they have a need for service, and they don't know where to find it."

Onstott & Craddick's consulting work springs out of the firm's traditional accounting forte of tax planning and auditing. The consulting side provides such services as audited financial statements bankers often require before even reviewing loan requests.

Most small businesses have the technical expertise to provide their product or service, but they often lack the financial expertise to know how to finance growth or provide optimum cash flow, Kozak said.

"From a management standpoint, they have the right policies and procedures in place, but they don't know how to negotiate with their banker," he said. …