Managing Time-Sensitive Engagements

BY LARRY R. COOK

  

 
 

Have you ever accepted a time-sensitive business valuation project then spent many late nights finishing the engagement? These suggestions may help your effectiveness:

checkbox Assess the risks. Time-sensitive engagements tend to elevate risks. Make sure the project is worth the risks that will be assumed to complete it and that the compensation will adequately reward the efforts.

checkbox Determine the “critical path” to completing the project. Prepare a breakdown of all the activities that are required to finish the project on time. Evaluate the probability of obtaining required and requested details in a timely and organized manner

checkbox Ensure that trained staff are available for the project. The acceptance or rejection of an engagement should depend on the availability of trained and competent personnel. Delegate various aspects of the project to share responsibility and avoid putting any single person at sole risk. Set realistic expectations for the individuals assigned to the task.

checkbox Communicate with your client. Communication skills are vital to the engagement and negotiation process. Ask as many questions as necessary to ensure both you and the client have a solid understanding of the project’s expectations and job requirements. Create an understanding that procedures require analysis and research prior to any management interviews.

checkbox Deal with time and scope limitations. Time considerations may lead to an engagement with scope restrictions or limitations. (Scope restrictions or limitations should be appropriately disclosed and fit the client’s needs.) Effective time-management activities might include (1) conducting interviews with management or others by conference calls instead of site visits or (2) communicating via e-mail to gather required information and to keep the communication lines open with the client(s). Document scope restrictions or limitations with the following activities:

Perform a summary valuation report instead of a full detailed valuation report, when appropriate and when this type of report clearly fits the client’s needs.

Perform a calculation report, when appropriate and when this type of engagement clearly fits the client’s needs.

(For more details on summary valuations and calculation reports, see “ Professional Guidance in Business Valuation: Applying SSVS1,” page 33.)

checkbox Define the engagement in writing. Negotiations involve some form of collaboration, confrontation or compromise. Provide a written understanding of the engagement that details the project’s criteria, objectives and fees to assure shared responsibility with the client(s). Set reasonable deadlines to facilitate engagement, and state that delivery of a final work product depends upon receiving required information. Document that changes in engagement facts, circumstances or understanding could delay or impair your ability to continue a project. Where appropriate, an additional retainer and extension of time to complete may be required. Require a signed representation letter for accuracy and reliability of the provided document(s).

checkbox Estimate fees based on knowledge and understanding of the explained facts and circumstances as of the engagement letter date. Inform the client of billings as progress is made if time or fees necessary to complete the project cannot be estimated. Document within the engagement letter that a fee statement will be provided and that outstanding fees must be paid prior to delivery of the project or issuance of a report and/or testimony. Reserve the sole right to withdraw from the engagement for non-payment.

checkbox Be mindful of Murphy’s Law. Expect glitches and delays and build allowances into the planning process.

Larry R. Cook , CPA/ABV, CBA, CDFA,
president of Larry R. Cook & Associates P.C.,
Houston, www.lcook.com

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