Reflections on the standard of professional skepticism

One of the very few things I personally dislike about being a CPA is a requirement known as “professional skepticism”. As much as my innate personality leads me to act in the role of an optimist, a cheerleader, supporter and an eternal promoter of general positive thoughts, the professional responsibility requires me to objectively weigh the risks and issue a fair and unbiased opinion.

Unfortunately that line of thinking leads me to conclude that there is a high level of risk in many areas of our lives and especially in small business today. Certainly this doesn’t mean that CPAs must be “downers” but it does mean that we can’t just “drink the feel-good kool aid” without considering additional data. A wide range of data sources – economic, political, environmental, etc. – indicates that small business operators are at especially high level of risk.

In far too many cases, I conclude, an analysis of the currently available available data indicates a path where events will not end well. Just yesterday, for example, I was put in the position of recommending a squash of an entrepreneur’s proposal to purchase a small business in his own best interest. That was difficult for me to do, and goes against my basic nature.

I envy people who make being eternally positive an integral part of your identity and business persona. We certainly need this now more than ever!

Yesterday I spent some time considering how the two concepts might work together:

How can I maintain the professional standard of professional skepticism while simultaneously maintaining a position of unyielding positivity that encourages a “know-like-trust” approach to business relationships?

This blog post is intended to simply say that this is a topic where I expect to invest some time and energy in the near future exploring and fine-tuning my personal approach.



2 responses to “Reflections on the standard of professional skepticism”

  1. Joe Wisniewski Avatar
    Joe Wisniewski

    Our firm is in Gloucester county but I know the issues and problems Salem and Cumberland counties have faced for what seems like forever. As a professional all you can do is be yourself and uphold the the integrity of our profession. Keep in mind you are the messenger. Explaining the why’s and why not’s on issues the best you can will also help. If others cannot accept the message however that is out of your control.

  2. Thanks Joe.
    Purely by coincidence, today I heard from a government official that our township government will disband soon just as I forecast a decade ago. So while this doesn’t make me popular, there is some consolation is being right in my skeptical approach.

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