When you’re looking to select an auditor for your organization, you may request several proposals and schedule meetings with each CPA firm that applies. During these meetings, it’s usually the finance committee’s job to shape the conversation and discover whether the auditor is a fit or not.
But problems can arise in these discussions when different members have different questions; without a unified direction, these questions can create a game of ping pong between you and the auditing firm, where no one walks away with a clear understanding of what happened.
FAQs about the proposal process
Over the years of serving our clients, we’ve received many questions about how to navigate proposal meetings with CPA firms. We’ll share some of the most common questions along with our advice to help you maximize your organization’s time.
How should I prepare for proposal meetings?
Depending on your experience, you may already have a good understanding of what you need from an auditor and/or CPA firm. This is your first priority: sit down with the finance committee and ask what your organization needs from the next auditor.
Ask not only about tasks to be completed but the type and quality of service expected as well. This information will help launch you into the process with a clear vision.
What questions should I ask?
Having a standard set of questions to ask each CPA firm during their bid interview can help you compare them directly. They should lead the auditor to answer how his or her expertise will help address the needs of your organization.
You can use questions like these as a jumping off point for your organization’s specific needs:
- Which staff members will be working on our account?
- Does the staff rotate year after year or is it consistent?
- Who is the central contact for our account and will they be at our office during the audit process?
- Explain the CPA firm’s process on handling our account.
- What do our assigned CPAs like to do with their free time?
- How are auditing fees generated?
To help inform more specific questions, think about what your previous auditing firm did well in addition to what you wish they could have done better.
How can I get a better perspective on the firm?
We like to think of proposal meetings like speed dating: The CPA firm is going to be on their best behavior during this short amount of time.
This means you have to be intentional about tracking down issues you see in their proposal or in how they responded to questions during the interview. Challenge them to answer questions beyond “yes” or “no.” Drill down into differences between expected levels of service.
The benefits of asking for clarification will be worth an awkward moment in the meeting.
If your organization is flexible and willing to try something different, ask the auditors to grab a cup of coffee with you. Placing them in an informal setting will tell you how they handle non-accounting tasks and whether they’re someone you’d enjoy hanging out with.
Prepared for success
Meeting with auditors is a crucial step in selecting who will tell your financial story. By coming to these meetings prepared and united as an organization, you can make the most of your time and gain valuable perspectives on which CPA firm will serve you well.