I would like to share with you an update on the first six months of my practice. Hope this is appealing to you and hope you can join me in this journey either as a client, colleague or friend. After 16 years of working with national and international firms, I decided to establish Sarmiento Consulting Services, LLC as a Forensic Accounting, Litigation Support, Financial Investigations, Valuations and Due Diligence Practice. During these 16 years I have worked in the United States, the Caribbean, Central and South America in multiple cases, industries and type of businesses ranging from small proprietorships to publicly traded companies, from a small retailer to a complex power generation operation, from a quantification of damages to a fraud investigation engagement, from a paper environment to a paperless environment, etc. This allowed me to found SCS with solid experience, technical ability, professionalism and the intuition necessary to carry on the assignments successfully.
One day I started thinking about doing something different, but wasn’t sure what that might be. In the late 90’s, I noticed few firms that were doing forensic accounting work. Back in those days, there were not many or the profession was not that popular. My interest grew as I saw the forensic accounting field as an opportunity to use my skills and started working with a firm in the field. At various points self-employment appealed to me, but I was afraid about whether it would work. One of my main fears was the financial aspect of receiving a fixed income from employment vs. the uncertainty that self-employment would bring. After 16 years working in the field, I decided to give my own practice a shot. Looking back six months later, I feel very glad about the decision I made.
My startup plan was very informal. I allocated a certain amount of my savings to start up the company and I can say today that my investment has been fully recovered and the business is now running on its own. I admit, there was not much of a strategy. But I have been fortunate to hit the ground running through various engagements that have allowed me to stay busy, recover my initial investment, pay bills including a salary and start creating a capital for future growth and development. The pipeline looks great for 2014 and additional leads promise to continue the momentum. Through networking with professional contacts that I had developed over the years, consulting projects started to materialize from unexpected places. One example is the involvement in an internal bank fraud investigation through a banking contact I had from more than a decade ago. My role included the investigation and quantification of damages. This assignment could lead to other consulting projects with the same client.
The company has been incorporated in the State of Florida and all the requirements to be a fully functional entity at the state and federal level have been meet. The headquarters of the company are located in the financial district of Brickell in Miami, Florida. The company is equipped with all the hardware and software necessary to run an organized operation, professional insurance has been obtained, banking relationships established, a well-established cloud backup program installed and a website with additional information is now operating at www.scsfirm.com among others.
Home office has been proven to be very beneficial. I designated a room in my apartment as a work area equipped with hardware, software, bookshelves and storage space. This has allowed me to save on rent as I am often away from the office. My condominium has a business center with the latest technology that can be used for conferences and is strategically located in the heart of Miami. I have not found that working from a home office is an issue for clients. Another benefit is the lack of a commute that would increase driving time, lower productivity and bring additional stress to my life.
My firm is set up to operate in a pretty simple manner. I try to keep my files in an electronic format. This makes access to information, especially older files, less time consuming than retrieving paper files. Also, using an all-inclusive cloud-based service provider has been great, especially when traveling. The cloud-based system allows me to have backups and allow me to easily and securely share files so I can collaborate with clients and professionals on various engagements. That also means that staff can be added to accommodate my practice’s growth while giving them the flexibility of working remotely.
Metrics are key for my operation and I am tracking performance, such as monthly and annual billable hours, billings and collections. 2014 goals have been set and I am strategizing as to activities that can lead to greater practice effectiveness and efficiency as well as pointing out areas for my future professional development. This process will be helpful to see and demonstrate progress towards my goals.
Professional insurance has been acquired. The plan has been fine for the occasional questions I have on practice management and liability exposure issues. I expect to continue coverage for the future.
There is no staff other than me, but I can draw on other professionals for assistance as needs arise. I can also collaborate with other seasoned professionals practicing solo through a professional network. My colleagues also can review my work, the feedback is constructive, and so I can make use of them to review my work going forward. A side benefit of the outside review process has been improvement in my productivity. My final review before issuing a report takes less time after my colleagues review my work. Additionally, my colleagues will have comments that enhance the quality of my report, which I greatly appreciate.
I have always believed in doing good work as the main marketing tool. It’s nice when clients have offered, without solicitation, to be references for me with future prospects. Even better, when clients market on your behalf and offer your services to their professional network. Even better, knowing that colleagues and clients want you to succeed and help you on each step of the way.
Professional networking and attending conferences and seminar events are a secondary strategy used where I can build my relationship with colleagues, existing and future clients. Through casual talk, people ask for my business card. Also, the conferences and seminars help me staying technically current with changes in the profession.
Having a bilingual website is great to direct existing and prospective clients for additional and detailed information about me and the firm. I have also implemented a blog linked to my press and publications section in the website to write articles and document important developments.
In the past, I have spoken at training seminars and will be looking forward to continue to do so, together with writing articles and why not filmed material.
Benefits of SCS
The following are some of the benefits the firm can offer:
· Bilingual – English and Spanish
· Certifications such as: Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) and Forensic Certified Public Accountant (FCPA).
· Background combined with local and international experience
· Low overhead; not having to worry about keeping staff busy or paying expensive rent
· No Conflicts of Interest
· Personalized attention and prompt response time. I personally do most, if not all, of the work
· Professional Network including former partners of big 4 accounting firms, banking and insurance experts, colleagues that can provide immediate assistance and support in large cases if needed among others.
A blog to interact with friends, colleagues and clients has been set up to document progress and future white papers. Thank you all for your support during the first six months. Hope all of you continue to support me in this journey and enjoy it as much as I am.