Friday, February 15, 2019

Hiring Hell

The other day I was having lunch with a former colleague who, after years as a “foot soldier” so to speak, was suddenly thrust into a management post. True, he received the requisite bump in salary, but what he didn’t count on was all the ancillary duties a supervisor position entails.

So, in between the appetizer and the main course, he began to tell me of all the new responsibilities tossed in his proverbial lap and the one he disliked most was…. he didn’t get to finish the sentence because I finished it for him – interviewing job candidates.

For three decades it was the bane of my existence as well. Whenever someone tendered their notice of resignation, I was not so much disappointed in their leaving as I was dreading the prospect of bringing in numbers of potential hires for an interview.

To put it plainly, I would rather volunteer for jury duty than pose the standard questions to each hopeful. Nevertheless, I will boast a bit and say that I did register some spectacular hires, the last three who have been with my former company for an aggregate 45 years.

No applause necessary.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

“Let Me Think About It”

For a brief period during a misspent youth, I was employed by a long-defunct chain of gyms called European Health Spas. My job was two-fold – one to help the members design suitable exercise programs and the other – to sell as many multi-year (and often inescapable) member contracts as possible.

For that I was outfitted in black pants and a white short-sleeved lab coat reminiscent of a barber. And in full disclosure I was terrible. With no formal sales training my soft-selling skills were basically non-existent. At that point in my life I would have had trouble peddling air conditioners in Phoenix.

But we did have one superb sales person – a woman who, in contrast to myself, could sell blocks of ice in Anchorage. Stunningly attractive with a silky voice that had male members of all ages swooning like lovesick kittens, she not only broke the existing membership sales record for the entire company, but later became one of the most successful real estate agents in the state.

Her technique was quite simple. Whenever a prospect was on the fence about signing and tried to leave with a “let me think about it” parting line, she sat him or her down in her office, closed the door and glared at them like a school principal would a repeat truant.

“I’ve been in this business a long time and never once has ‘thinking about it’ ever gotten anyone into shape.” 

More often than not she closed the deal. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Just Expense It- Not!

As many of you draw closer that three-month ordeal known as filing season, I like to take this opportunity to bring a somewhat lighter note before CPAs and EAs across the country begin routinely logging 70-80-hour weeks.

And that is highlighting the most “creative” expenses that employees attempt to push through their accounts payable departments.

This has been an annual undertaking for me ever since one of my former employers immediately dismissed a woman for attempting to legitimize a fur coat on an expense report.

Trust me I can’t make that up.

And to think I was once flagged by a company auditor with a sense of humor surpassed only by an undertaker, for an $8 bottle of cold medicine when I once fell ill during a conference in Chicago.

But on to the topic de jour.

AppZen, a vendor of expense management software has compiled a recent report gleaned from over 1,000 businesses across all fields stating that companies are now more closely auditing employee expense report claims and are becoming increasingly diligent in rejecting some of the more nebulous charges.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Let’s Break Tradition with Non-Tradition

Prior to January 1, I have an annual ritual that I have adhered to for nearly 20 years.

Prior to the onset of a new year, I write down all the things I’d like to see and hopefully accomplish in the ensuing 365 days.

As one would imagine, some are easier to achieve than others – i.e. drop 10 pounds, budget money more carefully etc., as opposed to finally sitting down to write that novel or picking the correct numbers for Powerball.

As far as the accounting profession goes, know what I’d like to see in 2019 – one conference session – just one, addressing one of the fastest growing trends currently unfolding – the exponential increase in the number of CPA firms merging with entities that are decidedly not accounting practices.

It is estimated that 20 percent of all mergers by larger CPA firms are affiliations with businesses such as cyber-security companies, HR and payroll consultants, medical and dental concerns and data analytics firms.

Just last week, one of the major accounting publications carried four separate articles detailing such recent mergers. Last year I participated in a podcast on non-traditional mergers and it  received over 2,000 downloads. Yet, not one session is dedicated to that subject in all the major conferences whose agendas I have scrolled through recently.

Last year and despite all the evidence to the contrary, I submitted a speaking proposal to the AICPA to specifically address that topic at Engage 2018 and was not even given the courtesy of a response. To be somewhat fair to them, similar proposals were also ignored by several of the larger state societies in the Northeast.

Instead, attendees at various national and local CPA gatherings are regularly treated to the same repetitive bromides – engaging millennials, value pricing, choosing the correct software etc.

And some still wonder why live attendances at conferences have been declining for years?

But here’s the rub. With pending technologies threatening to reshape the way traditional accounting firms operate and automate certain client services, firms are or have been scouring the M&A landscape for specialty niches to help differentiate their practices and prepare them for those quantum changes.

Closer to home, we have over the past year, facilitated several such mergers and are on the cusp of closing two more prior to the end of January.

And yet, I continue to hear crickets in terms of anything remotely approaching the subject.

Sadly, I fear I’ll be a lot closer writing my novel. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

‘Tis the season – for scams

Now that we’re a week or so into 2019 there are always things you can count on upon beginning a new year.

A sudden flood of people joining health clubs, longer than usual lines at stores specializing in organic and farm-to-table foods and a surge in the downloads of financial calculators as to hopefully better save and budget money.

You know what else?

Scams – whether electronic, snail mail or via the phone.
At the tail end of last week, I received in order: an email from my bank (with a black and white logo I may add) warning me that my personal information had been lost and I needed to re-enter my account numbers and just for added precaution, my Social Security number as well. Next, came a call from someone purporting to be a representative of a collection agency saying that I have a $2,000 outstanding debt and face serious prosecution if I don’t pay up immediately. For my convenience they could offer me a pre-paid card and my record would remain clear.

Friday, January 4, 2019

To Make a R-E-S-olution, You Need R-E-S-olve

Welcome back and Happy New Year.

By now, most of your hangovers – whether food or alcohol - are thankfully a thing of the past. On a personal note, my new best friend for the months of January and February will be the treadmill at my local health club. One more over-sized holiday meal and I could have easily performed my best impression of John Candy.

But with a new year comes the perfunctory annual resolutions. You know the usual bromides, lose weight, make more money, spend more quality time with the family... etc.

You can always tell when it’s early January at my above-referenced gym as people you’ve never laid eyes on before suddenly begin to populate the workout area – a typical New Year resolution that usually lasts at most until the end of the month before cobwebs once again begin accumulating on their membership cards.

Sadly, the same lack of resolve is often seen at CPA firms – particularly those who have done little or nothing in terms of succession planning. “Next Year” is a phrase often tossed my way when I inquire about succession plans – the same barren promise often heard in the locker rooms and front offices of perennially losing sports teams.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

That’s the way we’ve always done it!

During college I worked in a restaurant that had just hired a new general manager. He had trained at one of the large hospitality companies and wanted to work at the unit level until he went off on his own.

He was what you would call a very “new broom” and the one thing he made clear on his first day is that if he heard anyone use the phrase “we’ve always done it this way,” he/she would be well advised to start scouring the classified ads.

This restaurant had been stumbling of late, and if we were to fast forward to today’s reality television it might have been a candidate for chef Gordon Ramsey’s trademark wrath to help turn it around.

Within one month, the new GM had let go three servers and two bartenders he felt weren’t pulling their weight and had changed both the meat and seafood purveyors. Within six months the business had done a near 180 reversal and was even written up in the local paper.

One day between shifts I got up enough nerve to ask him the secret of the turnaround. To my surprise he asked me in the office, sat me down and proceeded to draw a clock on a piece of paper.