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Accountant Consultant Makes Numbers Count

By Cindy Atoji Keene

When a new regulatory act came down the pipeline for non-profits, accounting consultant Kevin Derrivan found himself explaining UPMIFA – the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act – to a lot of board directors. Despite the acronym, it is anything but “uniform,” said Derrivan of the endowment guidelines.

Acting as an information resource is just one of the many pinch-hitting roles that Derrivan has performed as an outsourced financial management expert, employed by Accounting Management Solutions, Inc. (AMS) based in Waltham. “The terms “accounting” and “financial analysis” tend to put business owners to sleep or send them screaming from the room – they are so involved in other functions of a company that they are left with little time to devote to finance,” said Derrivan, who has been called in for everything from audit reviews and budget preparation to acting as interim CFO during a staff shortage. “I don’t want to sound like the Maytag repairman, but I do find myself on the road all the time, with my laptop, files, and a clean dress shirt in the back of my Buick.”

Derrivan has been to New Jersey, New Hampshire, and “all points in between” seeing as many as a half-dozen clients on some days. His calendar one week included putting together a presentation for a client preparing for a bank refinancing; doing some bookkeeping, and helping a small company get ready for their first board meeting. He gets up to speed by poring over a company’s financial statements and other documents. “Accountants are not just boring bean counters with visors, crunching numbers. I do that in some cases, but often I am a strategic partner, interpreting what the numbers are telling us and what they mean to a company.”

Q: Why would a company want to outsource a service like accounting?
A: In a time of economic uncertainty, escalating employment (especially rising benefits premiums), and companies’ increasing aversion to the commitment related to full-time hires makes outsourcing an ideal solution.

Q: Accounting can sound like a foreign language with so many acronyms. What's a sampling of some "must know" terms?
A: It may sound like a foreign language but I think all professions have their buzzwords. Much of accounting is aimed at governing complex technical issues and striving for consistency in recording and reporting, so it’s a highly technical field. Some of the “must know” terms include basics like P&L (Profit and Loss), EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization, and GAAP (Generally accepted Accounting Principles).

Q: Does it feel nerve wracking to work in a profession where a single decimal point can make a difference?
A: When you’ve been trained and worked with figures for so long, precision becomes second nature, so it’s not something that keeps me up at night. It sounds simple, but in recording and summarizing transactions, it’s critical to ensure the credibility of the financials. Accounting requires a high level of diligence. But good old fashioned checking and re-checking helps a great deal as well.

Q: Do you do your own taxes?
A: No! The one year I did it myself I owed big money. Today I receive refunds, because I leave that to the tax professional, people who specialize in taxation. People don’t realize that there are dozens of specialties within the finance and accounting profession. This is one reason organizations like working with AMS – we have access to a large group of finance people, many of whom have very specific specialties. Doing my own taxes would be like replacing a basketball player with a jockey – he might know how to dribble and pass but he might have some trouble getting the ball in the basket.

Q: What motivated you to establish a career in accountancy?
A: As long as my mother won’t read this, I’ll tell you that I really started out as a psychology major and ended up switching to accounting because I always thought that someday I’d be in business for myself. Today I have still have that kind entrepreneurial outlook.

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