There’s nothing like a good clear financial statement. And in a time when lenders are very stingy, those basic reports are more valuable than ever. In fact, this is one of those times that good accounting and advisory services are more valuable than ever.

A good financial statement, after all, is a sales pitch when presented to the lender. It’s an argument for why the financial institution should part with its money. Good statements cry, “Trust me.” Bad ones carry different messages.

And these factors are among the reason that accounting is usually considered countercyclical, meaning the accounting profession does well when times are bad.  When the economy is weak, businesses still need to file tax returns and prepare statements. They need loans more than ever, which are harder to get, and they need advice like they’ve never needed it before.

All of which should mean that this is a good period for tax and accounting professionals who can deliver the goods, and of course, that means the ones that will separate themselves from the pack will do a good job of selling their own services.

Good firms get out in front of the crowd. In fact, this column was triggered by one firm that did, Echelbarger, Himebaugh, Tamm & Co. of Grand Rapids, Mich., which on Oct. 8 posted on its Web site a letter to its business customers that had 17 points to consider during the current mess. What is really good about this is it closes with the advice that the clients should contact the firm and ends with, “We are here to help.”

Of course, action has to be taken to carry through. But this is an awfully good start. And while there are many firms that are using their Web site (and other media) to convey that message, a day spent visiting firm Web sites will turn up a lot that aren’t trying to take advantage of a less-than-ideal situation.

Firms have to have the skills to provide sound advice. But perhaps the best lesson from firms like EHTC is that when the going gets tough, the tough start pitching.

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