Getting Auditing Expertise at a Moment's Notice
Pecos, which supplies $100 million of refined petroleumproducts to clients ranging from tugboat captains to golf pros, has a variedbusiness. In Seattle, its General Petroleum subsidiary refuels the state-runferries, tugboats, and yachts that traverse Puget Sound. In Los Angeles, itstanker-truck drivers cruise the freeways long after rush hour, refueling commercialfleet vehicles, such as the mowers and grooming machines that manicure golfcourses.
The fuel consumption of Pecos’s commercial accountsvaries little between January and July, but like other retail fuel distributors,it typically experiences a spike in demand during the summer. And now Pecosmay have another seasonal rite: its audit at fiscal year-end, September 30.Last year marked the first time that the company’s lender had demandedsuch documentation.
The leader of the temp team that came to assist Pecoswas a former corporate executive and certified public accountant. Now semi-retired,he wanted to keep his skills sharp, but to work for only a few months at a time.
John Elliott, Pecos’s vice president of finance,was impressed with him. Hiring a contingent accountant “gives you a chanceto add experienced staff,” he says. In this instance, the CPA also trainedthe bookkeeping staff on how to make the work flow more smoothly in the followingyear. “The only incremental cost I’m paying is (Abbott’s) profit.”
The added cost was inconsequential compared to the expertise the company gainedat nearly a moment’s notice, Elliott says. He’s been able to callAbbott after 4 p.m. and have someone at Pecos the next day at 8 a.m. “Ican never hope to match that responsiveness,” he says.
More typically, Elliott turns to Abbott and two otherstaffing companies to find temporary substitutes for standard functions performedby permanent employees who are briefly redeployed on special projects or takingsummer vacations. The audit was unusual for tapping outside experts to performan internal task, but Elliott expects he will do the same thing this fall.
“It’s much easier to bring in a temp to fillin that desk while we’re working on a project,” he says, adding thatcontingent workers can be taught the nuances of petroleum distribution witha week or two of training. The drawback is the risk of getting the wrong personfor the job, he says. And then there are the times when candidates don’tshow up, or are clueless about proper office etiquette.
Abbott representatives improve placement odds by visitingtheir clients’ companies monthly to sample and absorb the corporate culture.Elliott helps the recruiters by giving them direct access to department hiringmanagers, who can better describe the skills needed in a potential candidate.