Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Honey-Do List for CPA Firms

This past Saturday my better and half and I decided to take advantage of arguably the most beautiful back-to-back days of the year in terms of weather and went for a lengthy walk. While strolling past a neighbor’s house I noticed he was busy getting ready to stake a “For Sale by Owner” sign into the ground.

Selfishly this set off some minor internal alarms, since he owned what anyone would consider an older and decidedly smaller home, I knew instantly that anyone who bought it would immediately target the property for an immediate tear down and replace it with a much larger structure.

So, we got into a brief but lively conversation about his plans. His children were now grown and had moved out of state and he was growing weary of the seemingly endless New York winters (boy was I with him on that one). They had acquired a piece of property near Naples, Fla., on which they had planned to build their retirement villa.

But first, he had a laundry list of home improvement jobs that had to be completed. At the top of that itinerary was repaving his driveway, then painting several rooms as well as re-grouting his master bathroom.

Strangely I equated this “to-do” agenda with a CPA firm owner who decides its time to wind down and look for a successor firm providing his bench wasn’t deep enough to carry on internally. Almost always there’s work to be done to make a firm more attractive for a sale. Very few CPA firms I’ve seen could be classified as being in “move-in” condition.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Do Go It Alone

In an episode of the classic 1950s sitcom, “The Honeymooners,” the Ed Norton character was bemoaning to Ralph Kramden that he had just gotten fired from his job in the sewer. He insisted that finding other work was going to be difficult, if not impossible, because in his view “sewer workers are like brain surgeons, we’re both specialists!”

I thought about this the other day when I was a guest at an engagement party for my nephew and struck up a conversation with a young man while waiting at the bar for a drink (naturally).

He was a typical Millennial, able to converse and text simultaneously and I gather seemingly without a slew of grammatical errors. He revealed to me that he had just started an IT company that had developed some app whose purpose, and of course functionality, was far over my Baby Boomer head.

So, in my line of work, the next question unsurprisingly, was did he have an accountant?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

You Expensed What?

Years ago, when I first was taught how to fill out an expense account, I was probably more hesitant to write something off than I should have been and thus, probably spent more of my own money than necessary.

In fact, the only thing I can remember being kicked back by the accounts payable department was a $7.95 box of cold tablets I desperately needed once in New Orleans - fighting galactic congestion while navigating a conference in a city that at the time was hovering at 97 degrees with 90 percent humidity.

Upon my return I discovered one of the women in the classified section of the company had been fired for attempting – I kid you not – to write off a fur coat as an expense. Another employee, a group publisher, submitted a receipt for a $1,000 dinner – allegedly with business contacts. Only he was far from discreet and a colleague had spotted him at the restaurant in question with a woman other than his wife.

I harken back to those halcyon days of seeing what you could and could not get away with when I saw the results of a recent survey that concluded business travel fraud is costing U.S. businesses nearly $2 billion a year.

Meanwhile, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners expense reimbursement fraud makes up 17 percent of all business fraud.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The “Drive” To Pare Down Debt

During the 25 years I spent in publishing, I’ve taken more car service rides to airports or events than I care to remember. I used to keep a tally just for kicks but stopped at about 250.

So, a number of years ago when ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft debuted, I stubbornly continued either to avail myself of my local transportation service or use my personal car– which during convention season meant sticking it in long-term parking at JFK and LaGuardia.

Last month I’m sure I became just about the last person in the U.S. to take an Uber. The booking process was relatively easy – even for a technology Luddite like myself and the rides showed up promptly and certainly less expensive than my former method of getting around.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What Are You “Wearing?”

For Mother’s Day my daughters decided to pitch in and present their mother with an upscale fitness tracker that resembles an oversized watch. Actually, it is an oversized watch. Since she’s a faithful gym attendee, it was both a practical necessary gift – although the early returns are in and she’s paying far more attention to it than she is any of us.

Recently, I had been noticing more gym members with fitness “wearables” obsessively monitoring their heart rates and oxygen levels (often to my annoyance while endlessly waiting to use a piece of equipment) and decided to perform some ad hoc research on the market.

Turns out that some 315 million wearable devices were sold worldwide last year and by 2022 – just four short years from now, sales are expected to top $75 billion, (yes, that’s with a B). Obviously high-profile wearables such as the Apple Watch dominate the category and according to tech research Gartner, sales of smartwatches will hit 81 million units within a span of three years.

That gave me pause.

Although I’m about three area codes of being knowledgeable on future tech trends, I could not help but harken back some 37 years ago when IBM rolled out its version of the PC and in just a few short years revolutionized back office accounting.

So my question is how long before wearable technology beings to make inroads into accounting?

Not long. In fact it already has.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Getting Your House in Order

Recently I went to a local restaurant with friends for a “quick” post-event meal – emphasis on “quick,” which turned out to be anything but. A glass of house wine arrived a mere 15 minutes after ordering and the specialty flatbread took almost an hour.

Our server could not be found on the side of a milk carton and as far as water was concerned, you could have gotten a refill faster stranded in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

Now to preface this fiasco, the place had recently received a lot of local press, primarily because the owners had opened several other locations throughout the Tri-State area. As one who covered the restaurant industry for 12 years and worked within its confines for another six, I tend to judge my dining experiences with a fairly critical eye but also with a bit of sympathy for those in one of the most demanding businesses there is.

But there are limits to even what I will tolerate.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Instant Replay

Now that another filing season is over, it’s usually about this time of year when my inbox begins to become overstuffed with reminders of upcoming conferences and subsequent links to their respective agendas.

By my count there are 14 prospective accounting-related events that I could conceivably attend by August, but for all practical purposes, will probably settle on one or two.

However like others in the profession, I’m becoming rapidly convinced that the time required, not to mention the expense of traveling to other cities, can be categorized by the law of diminishing returns. That coupled with the fact that the sessions staged in any specific year could simply be copied and pasted to events taking place in 2018.

As an example, I realize CPA firms have trouble getting good people. I’m reminded of it every day when I speak to clients. And yes, few would argue there is a significant cultural divide between Baby Boomers and Millennials that has to be addressed.

But tell me, does that scenario command roughly 14 sessions at several events dedicated to reaching out to Millennials and how to engage them? To me that’s the CPA version of summer television where reruns are the rule rather than the exception.

Ditto for blockchain and other pending disruptive technologies. At last count there were more than two dozen hours across the board assigned to that topic, not to mention a series of webinars.

Haven’t we seen this movie before?