David Zweighaft is a forensic accountant, which means he brings a very specialized skill to companies as an external resource. His success depends on developing trust with his clients, a challenge I’m sure all business leaders face at one time or another.
David’s perspective on trust has broad implications for how to navigate the working world successfully. I hope you learn from him as much as I have.
David: What can external resources bring to a business that internal employees can’t…and vice versa?
David Zweighaft: Typically, a business owner doesn’t call on a forensic accountant unless there is a real concern regarding potential loss, either from suspected fraud or litigation. The intangible benefit I provide is peace of mind regarding the magnitude of financial risk at play or that the processes and procedures in place are in fact operating properly to minimize that financial risk. Business owners can benefit from the leading practices I have observed and implemented for clients that address problems affecting companies across a spectrum of industries over the past twenty years. This provides the opportunity to bring all my experience to bear in order to tailor comprehensive solutions that meet the specific needs of the business and the situation to achieve an optimal outcome, whether that means working with their attorney to determine the most appropriate measure of damages, or making certain that there are proper controls in place to prevent, deter and detect acts of malfeasance before they become a threat to the viability of the company.
An internal employee has the benefit of deep insights into the business, including the nuances of relationships with key customers, vendors, competitors, and other employees. I collaborate with owners, managers, their long-term employees, and others who maintain the institutional memory to find the “best fit” solution for my clients.
David: If you could advise business owners to take one action to improve profitability, what would it be?
DZ: Develop good governance and compliance programs that set the company apart in terms of integrity, conduct, and respect for customers, employees, business partners, and other parties. This might not seem intuitive at first, but as a key differentiator, most consumers will prefer to continue doing business with a company that respects them and values their business. When properly planned and implemented, the action by itself is a game-changer because it will change the culture of the business, and it enlists all employees to focus on meeting the financial, operational, and strategic objectives.
This is especially true in industries where there are many competitors who try to differentiate only on price, and frequently will cut corners to maintain or increase their profit margin. Taking the “moral high road” will result in reduced costs due to loss, theft and potential legal costs, and greater customer loyalty, referrals, and revenues.
David: What was the most important thing you did to grow your own career?
DZ: I learned to look at every client as my partner, and to put myself in their shoes in order to understand their perspective. When they hear me treating their loss as if it was my loss, and responding to the problem at hand with the same level of urgency they are feeling, prospective clients respond by looking for opportunities to discuss their businesses and their problems with me as an insider and as a trusted advisor, not as an outside consultant or vendor. I share stories about prior clients, the issues they faced and how we resolved them to the clients’ satisfaction. I always listen to my clients’ stories, their needs and their perception of how a problem impacts their business, then we discuss the outcome they are looking for, and finally we collaborate on how to achieve that outcome. I don’t like surprises in the course of my work, and keeping the client informed of our progress has been a great way to keep the conversation flowing, keep the relationship positive, and frequently, keep the new business coming in.
David: What’s your favorite productivity trick?
DZ: I like to get an early start and try to begin the day by working on a specific task or series of tasks that are on my “to do” short list. Spending an hour or so focused on completing something clears my head and allows me to deal with the incessant emails and phone calls that would otherwise be a distraction. With a couple of tasks completed, I look at the rest of the day with an optimism and sense of satisfaction that lowers my stress levels.
David Zweighaft is the Managing Director at DSZ Forensic Accounting & Consulting Services LLC. Visit the company’s website, or contact them by phone, at 212-699-0901.