To Supervise or Not--That Isn't the Question

What constitutes good supervision in a CPA firm? What are the characteristics of a good supervisor? Is supervision necessary on small audits? How much is necessary? When and how should it occur? In this and some blogs that follow, we’ll explore the what, when, where and how’s of effective supervision and review.

I was trained under the “sink or swim” method of supervision and review. A man I’ll refer to as my favorite manager, Fred, would bring a stack of working papers into my office, drop them on my desk and say something like, “You’re the new in-charge on this audit. Get out there tomorrow and get started. Bring the job back to me when you’re finished…and make sure it’s done right and under budget!” Fred had never heard of an “open-door” policy! His interests and needs were always more important than his staff assistants’ needs. RHIP is the policy I think.

Under the sink or swim method of supervision and review, staff assistants don’t get the benefit of the supervisor’s experience during the planning and performance phases of engagements, and the problems gravitate to the review phase. Inappropriate attempts to solve the problems by staff personnel, along with other mistakes made in planning and performing audit procedures, turn into huge “sink-holes” during the review phase. Engagement wrap-up problems abound, not too mention the great pain usually inflicted on the unsupervised staff person!

Effective supervision and review begins during the planning phase of the audit and continues through the performance and completion phases. So what is good supervision? In a nutshell, good supervision is satisfying the needs of assistants. I could even say that good supervisor is a servant of those above and below him/her in any job situation, particularly on small audits. Post a comment and tell us about your best or worst supervisor.

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by Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC - Larry has over 40 years experience as a CPA practitioner, author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs.  He is co-founder of CPA Firm Support Services, LLC (www.cpafirmsupport.com), an organization providing resources, training and consulting to smaller CPA firms.  Larry writes a weekly blog on AccountingWEB.com focusing on small audits, reviews and compilations.  He is currently developing documentation manuals and handbooks for small audits, reviews and compilations and related electronic practice aids.

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