9 Steps of Starting a Forensic Services Firm
By Sosthenes Bichang’a, FCFIP, FCPA, FCFA, CPAK
Forensic services demand is on the increase due to increased incidences of fraud, corruption and cybercrime. Even small organizations have started asking for forensic services due to increased awareness of the benefits of forensic services.
But, how does one get started in this field after acquiring the coveted CFIP certification? This is a frequent question from the IICFIP Members who wish to start their own firms individually or in partnership. Many professionals fail to get on the path to success in the industry due to lack of knowledge on how to start, run, sustain and expand forensic services. This puts a dent in their capacity to eventually build a very successful firm in this line. I would in this presentation, outline the strategies that one can take in starting up a forensic services firm from scratch or a division at an already existing management consulting/Accounting firm.
STRATEGY NO. 1 - Speaking on Forensics
Start offering to speak at anti-fraud or forensic workshops and conferences for free or pay depending on the circumstances. You may also use your network to organize such workshops so that you create speaking opportunities for yourself. As you train, you will get networked with the participants and gain recognition as an expert in forensics. Companies or organizations usually call in trainers as consultants and your initial forensic assignment offers will most likely come from one of the participants who attended your training sessions(s) and got impressed by your understanding of the investigation process or forensics generally.
I have witnessed cases where trainers get forensic assignments offers immediately after delivering training. I am one of them. In several occasions I have received offers for forensic audit after delivering training to top executives. This means that you must do the following:
a) Study hard and smart to present yourself as not only knowledgeable but also competent in matters to do with forensic investigation.
b) Before going to deliver a presentation research and research so that you have your ideas or points flowing naturally and systematically solving or providing ways on how to solve the problems facing your audience.
c) If you are the organizer of the workshops or seminars where you speak and deliver presentations, ensure that you invite decision makers or executives that are in a position to recommend you to the decision makers. A workshop whose participants include Chief Financial Officers, Directors, Chief Executive Officers, Audit Directors, Company Owners, etc., will do you magic.
STRATEGY NO. 2 - Keeping a Database of prospects
Keep a database of the executives you have trained at various training events. This database is good for marketing your training and forensic services. Engage them in actively marketing yourself as a forensic audit expert by volunteering to take part in consulting assignments related to forensic audit like carrying out a proactive fraud risk assessment, review of their internal controls and delivering a 4 hour anti- fraud/corruption awareness in house training to their staffs.
Circulate a newsletter, periodically, to all of them containing tips on how to prevent and detect fraud/corruption. This will keep them aware of your skills and incase of any need, they will definitely call upon you for help. Let me sound a caution here. Please do not oversell yourself since professionals are not expected to appear desperate for business.
STRATEGY NO. 3 - Working for or with existing firms
Collect contacts of the leading accounting/auditing firms in your area or country and offer your services to them as a CFIP. Many accounting firms come across fraud in their client organizations and could be very willing to either use you as an expert or refer the client to you for forensic services. If they refer the client to you, do not accept the assignment if you have not worked on a similar assignment before until or unless you will be accompanied by an experienced professional. This leads us to the important point of ensuring that you network well with experienced CFIPs in the country or outside so that you can call them to assist you. If you do not have a consulting firm yet, please partner with an existing firm in executing that assignment. This will not only assist you in getting clients but also experience in forensic investigation or auditing.
Working with other professional firms may also give one an opportunity to network with professional who are potential partners. One may get a person to team up with and start a forensic firm. This leads us you to strategy number 4 below.
STRATEGY NO. 4 - Form forensic firm or Division
Set up your own forensic services firm or start a forensic division in your existing consulting firm. Do not forget to continue to offer training as a component of the package of services you offer. As you train, you will be expanding your potential client contacts base. Every time you have an anniversary, make a point of writing to all your contacts inviting them to attend the commemoration ceremony for free.
Before completion of the formation of your firm, decide whether you will be alone or you will have partners. If you decide to have partners join you, please decide on what skills and qualifications they will have to assist you in promoting the vision and mission of your forensic firm. They should be not only sharing the shame vision but should also be qualified as well.
STRATEGY NO. 5 - Register the firm
Have your firm registered and licensed to gain credibility as well as legality in your jurisdiction. Registration may include listing in the directory of professional firms and joining relevant professional institutes as a corporate member for business referrals and also receiving complimentary advertisements by the Institute where you are listed. This happens as an added advantage of listing since as the Institute will be advertising itself, it will also be attracting visitors to the page where your firm is listed and as a result you will be getting inquiries or assignment offers.
Getting listed by a professional institute like IICFIP Inc. also assures the clients that your firm and all its members are following the standards of the Institute in their services delivery. This increases confident of the potential and also existing clients in your services.
STRATEGY NO. 6 - Retaining clientele
Manage your clientele well by doing the following:
- Executing their assignment(s) excellently
- Sending them free updates that add value
- Responding to their complaints promptly and apologizing your necessary.
STRATEGY NO. 7 - Be Specific
Be specific! A common mistake is to over market yourself. Many are skeptical of one person (or a smaller firm) who markets themselves as providing 'all types' of anti-fraud services because there will be a suspicion of the ability to deliver them. Only the huge global firms are regarded as such, not because this is necessarily true but because this is the thinking in the market place. Likewise, offer a modest range of services and lines of expertise and draw a clear connection between them. Such as financial fraud that goes with money laundering. Cybercrime and social networking. There has to be a synergy, a thread that runs through your firm’s profile and holds all services together.
STRATEGY NO. 8 - Networking and Memberships
Networking and associating with other forensic services firms nationally and regionally. This will enable you to take on large assignments in partnership with any one of them. Also remember to train and maintain your staff well since they are your wheels to success and business expansion.
The pursuit of networking may lead you to social media updates and posts. Your presence on social media may also lead to international clients. Write about your association with professional institutes and about what you know on forensics including your firm and its services. My first international forensic assignment was offered to me via Linkedin the leading professional social network globally.
STRATEGY NO. 9 - Trust in God
Trust in the Almighty God and always ask Him for His wise and unfailing guidance. Faith in the supernatural being called God, works miracles in business success apart from the healing the pastors/preachers do shout about on every day of worship.
The author of this presentation is the Founder & Global President of the IICFIP Incorporation – www.iicfip.org and he is the Author of the 9 Steps of Forensic Investigation. 1st Edition – 2016 among other books like Investigation Law, Expert Witnessing: Theory and Practice, and the CFIP Exams Preparation Guide.
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