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4 financial benefits of single audit specialization

Focus on audit specializationCan a small firm thrive by building a niche within a highly specialized audit area? My firm, Clausell & Associates, P.C., in Decatur, Georgia, has found the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Our 10-person firm opened in 1987, three years after Congress passed the Single Audit Act. This landmark legislation standardized audit requirements for states, local governments and Indian tribal governments that receive and use federal financial assistance. Our firm’s founders saw an opportunity to establish themselves in this new and growing niche. Today, single audits make up about 60 percent of our practice, so the original decision to specialize in single audits was a great move for our firm. 

For practitioners thinking that specializing may limit their practice, don’t worry. Over the years, our single audit expertise has helped to set us apart in the marketplace and drive our growth. Here are some of the rewards that we have found through single audit specialization. 

  1. You will spend less time and money trying to be all things to all people. Instead of attempting to keep up with a wide variety of standards and regulations, specialization allows you to concentrate your efforts in one area. It’s easier to train staff and maintain their skills in one field, and you can streamline processes to achieve peak efficiency.
  2. The quality of your work will enhance the demand for your firms’ services. We have gotten most of our engagements because of our reputation for quality. Finding a narrow niche allows you to focus your energies and stay up to date, which significantly impacts the quality of your work. Once people know about your niche expertise, it will help enhance your reputation in the community and with referral sources. For example, in our case, grantors who know of our reputation have asked us to provide assistance such as developing internal controls and grant management systems to organizations to which they provide awards.

One key to building a reputation for quality is raising awareness about your firm’s specialization. To gain visibility, we make a concerted effort to participate in professional activities. For example, early on in my career I became involved in our state CPA society, joining the report acceptance body of the state’s peer review committee. That work was valuable to me professionally, and it also helped enhance our firm’s standing in the community and the profession. Due to our reputation, we’ve received referrals from other firms who either do not have the capacity to take on a new engagement or who prefer to stay out of the single audit space.

  1. There are many opportunities for special projects. When we work with clients on single audits, we sometimes identify value-added services that do not compromise our independence. For example, we may assist them in thinking through potential new policies and procedures to help them better comply with laws or regulations or better manage their organizations. Similarly, based on our niche expertise, a number of organizations that are not audit clients have engaged our firm to provide value-added services. When we believe our services would not impair independence, some eventually become audit clients. This chance to expand into other types of related consultative services has been one of the greatest financial benefits of our specialization. Instead of spreading ourselves thin to take on a new service area, we leverage our core knowledge to provide different types of engagements.
  2. It cuts down on turnover costs. Professionals who join our firm can easily see the career value of a single audit specialization. They understand that every day they are enhancing their skills in a niche that’s in high demand, which increases their engagement in the firm. That cuts down on our turnover and recruiting expenses and boosts profitability.

Go with Your Passion

Of course, the financial benefits are just some of the many advantages of specialization. Any specialty will be demanding, so be sure to choose one you’re passionate about. For me, there’s satisfaction in serving organizations that are improving the community. Many local organizations that get federal funding have limited resources, but our expertise makes it possible for them to do what they do best. If you’re also interested in specializing in single audits, you may want to check out the Governmental Audit Quality Center.

What specialty will work for you? There’s a strong incentive to decide, because specialization can be quite rewarding.

Tracey Dixon, CPA, is a partner at Clausell & Associates, P.C., in Decatur, Georgia. She is a member of the AICPA Governmental Audit Quality Center Executive Committee and the Report Acceptance Body of the Georgia Society of CPAs.

Focus on single audit specialization courtesy of Shutterstock.

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