Maximizing Your Audit Relationship is as Easy as 1-2-3—and 4

You've carefully selected an auditor who offers a competitive price, pays sufficient attention to your firm's needs and understands your industry. But if you truly want to make the most of your audit relationship—and save yourself some money, your responsibilities are not yet over. I recommend these four crucial steps to maximizing your audit relationship:

Crucial Step #1: Be prepared before the auditors arrive.

Have all the documents requested by the auditors prepared for them when they show up. All your books should be closed, and all accounts thoroughly analyzed. This includes making sure that your financial statements are drafted and that your footnotes are completed. Doing all this will save substantially on audit fees.

Crucial Step #2: Be proactive.

Don't be shy about asking questions of your CPA firm, which can be an invaluable source of information. They can also suggest helpful websites targeted specifically to your needs. And ask if your CPA firm can recommend networking groups for controllers and CFOs who may be dealing with the same kinds of issues you're facing. These groups are ideal for bouncing ideas off one another and networking about best practices

Crucial Step #3: Insist on regular updates.

Make sure you're getting regular updates from your CPA firm. If you've got a two-to-four week audit, you'll want to know what's going on every two to three days. On a one-week audit, you should be getting an update every day. Make sure the audit team is communicating the information and stay on them if they're not.

Crucial Step #4: Honor thy deadlines.

One cannot overemphasize the importance of deadlines. Even if you're a private company, make sure you have reasonable dates to get something done. Make sure everyone knows the deadline at which you're aiming. As for public companies, make sure the annual and quarterly filings are done early—a week before, if not earlier. If you work up until the filing deadline, you risk going on extension, rushing your CPA and paying added costs.

By paying careful attention to these four crucial steps, managers of publicly or privately held businesses can ensure that they are following the best practices in order to maximize what they and their companies get out of the audit relationship.