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East Rand Chartered Accountant - Sandy Stewart - shares her experiences after stepping in to ovesee the Financial Year End for an SME with a tight deadline.   


I recently had the opportunity to assist a client through with a financial year end deadline. They were in a real pickle - their deadline was within a week and the Financial Director had left 6 weeks before under a huge cloud.

We made the deadline, working with inexperienced internal finance and external audit teams, and a Head Office “expert” who never finished anything that was started.

The important lessons I learnt though were:

  • Be clear about what constitutes overtime, when it “kicks in’, what rate applies and when it will be paid. Invariably, you will be required to work additional hours well over a 12 or 14-hour day, but not every day. You may also be required to work weekends and public holidays. Be sure to be clear what hourly rate should apply, I.e. time and a half, double time, paid time off “in lieu of”;
  • Be clear up front about the time you will need and when this will be needed for other clients. This includes during office hours and more time at certain times of the month, for tax or monthly payment deadlines;
  • Remember, this client has only brought you in for a specific problem or time period. Do not put this single client ahead of any of your existing clients that you’ve taken time and effort to develop. This client has not offered you anything permanent. If you put their requirements ahead those of your existing clients, you may land up with neither a permanent role, nor any existing clients who have had to go elsewhere for the support they have grown accustomed to and need; 
  • Be sure about what you have been brought in to do, what work is covered and what you outputs, deliverables and time frames will be;
  • Be clear about whether or not you are managing staff and what that should include, i.e. performance management, time management, training, mentoring, etc; and
  • Be wary of becoming too friendly with permanent employees. You cannot offer any guarantees for continued employment during restructuring or other organisational "political maneuvering". The remaining team members may also be part of the bigger “problem” that has resulted in you being brought in, i.e. accounting work not being up to scratch or of the necessary standard.

All being said, do not be afraid of any genuine opportunity to expand your client base by offering interim assistance during a year end or other pressure times. You may well develop a win-win relationship where your higher end skills can add value to a medium sized business which cannot afford or doesn’t wish to pay for full term Financial Director expertise.