Small companies in the United States have long complained that it's unfair in terms of costs and time that they're required to meet accounting standards that were written for companies that are many times their size.

And it was the writer of those standards -- the Financial Accounting Standards Board -- that came to the Institute of Management Accountants in search of advice on how to consider the needs of those small companies.

The IMA responded by establishing a Small Business Committee to search for solutions and consult not only with FASB, but also with the International Accounting Standards Board, the American Institute of CPAs, and other setters of accounting and auditing rules.

IMA president and chief executive officer Paul Sharman said that 80 percent of the institute's members work for small and midsized businesses, and so the institute is eager to provide a means of balancing the influence that large companies have over the standard-setting process.

"Small companies are busy doing work, rather than contemplating the next FASB rule or thinking about how to implement Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 by using Auditing Standard No. 5, so we're pleased to be able to provide this opportunity for a small business think tank where we can actually interpret what our members are telling us and feed it to standard-setting bodies and regulators," Sharman explained.

The committee's first meeting is scheduled for March.

Thirteen individuals have volunteered to serve on the committee, and Linda Devonish-Mills, the IMA's director of professional advocacy, said that the committee's size may double within a year. "Since we announced membership of the committee, I have gotten feedback from members who missed the initial notice to sign up, and now they want to participate, if not as a member, then off-line," she said. "They really want to be engaged with this committee. I think we hit the mark here."

The committee's 13 members include the controllers, managing directors and chief financial officers of companies not likely to appear on lists in major business magazines, but that nonetheless fill critical niches in American business.

THE VOICE OF SMALL BIZ

Committee member Bruce Pounder, president of Leveraged Logic, a professional education and consulting firm in Asheville, N.C., helps small businesses keep up with changes to FASB standards and Securities and Exchange Commission rulings.

Though each new ruling means more jobs for him, he said that he's glad to help rulemakers hear the voice of small businesses. "Anytime things happen in regulation or standard-setting, the impact does not fall proportionately on all businesses," he said. "Big businesses are often much better positioned to bear the costs imposed on them. That's why it's important that small businesses be heard."

Committee member Oscar Lewis, controller of Umbra Cuscinetti, a manufacturer of jet engine components in Everett, Wash., agreed that the one-size-fits-all approach to regulation and accounting standards is not working for small companies.

"It seems like, from the regulatory standpoint, everything gets skewed to look at what the big guys need, when the little guys need the same kind of thing but don't have the same resources, so we need a voice," he said. "It isn't just a matter of quantitative resources we can devote, but also the qualitative resources. It's one thing for someone to come to me and say you need to do this, this and this, and another to go over to Boeing and tell them the same thing, when they have an almost unlimited supply of resources to devote to it."

Lewis said that he would like to see the committee promote "a more level playing field" for large and small companies. By that he did not mean different standards or special exemptions, but perhaps deferrals of certain standards that would give smaller companies more time to prepare for changes.

Pounder would like to see the committee deal with the impact of globalized business. Even the smallest of companies, he said, are participating in the global economy, with customers or suppliers in other countries. "Small companies have to be thinking how they are going to compete in this international marketplace, and policymakers and regulators are going to have to make sure they do things that don't hamper the ability of the smaller enterprise here in the United States to compete in the global economy," he said.

Devonish-Mills said that IMA members would be able to monitor committee activities and contribute to its discussions through the IMA Web site.

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