Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sour “Apple”

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

Pardon the shopworn cliché, but today’s missive amplifies why cyber security and security surrounding personal information in general is one of the most in-demand client service niches in the accounting profession.

Some of you may recall several months back I reported receiving a series of sham phone calls from folks claiming to be from the IRS who warned me that I owed a large amount in unpaid taxes. If I didn’t tender X amount immediately I would be subject to “severe” (their term not mine) legal action.

Of course having covered the profession for 12 years I at least knew that the IRS never calls, rather they send you a letter. So as you can imagine I had a lot of fun when I called the number they left and proceeded to skewer the fraud on the other end of the phone.

But I did think that once tax season done, the calls claiming that I owed a large debt to the IRS would cease.

Well the IRS calls did indeed stop, only to be replaced by ones purportedly from Apple. Yes that Apple.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

CPA Makeover

With all the conversation about weather-related events in other parts of the country, the Northeast has experienced what is known as an “Indian Summer” – with temperatures reaching in the mid-80s at the end of September. In fact, I established a personal record by re-starting my air conditioning the first week of October.

So taking advantage of sunshine and abnormal temperatures, I took a long walk the other day and noticed one of my neighbors speaking to a home improvement contractor. He explained that he was putting his house on the market and was just now getting to all the projects he had put off for years.

“Gotta get it ready for when the real estate brokers start bringing people in,” he explained. “Especially the kitchen and the bathrooms because that’s what really sells a house.”

I thought about it and realized that he was right. Whenever I visit someone’s home I usually notice both of those areas first.

So it would stand to reason that the same principles would apply to a CPA practice that had made the decision to merge and intends to polish it up for potential suitors.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Chemistry 101

As someone who has been out of the courting phase for nearly three decades, I can still remember the feeling of when you had high hopes for an upcoming date and then for no inexplicable reason, it didn’t seem to click.

And there seemed no valid reason for it. You shared similar interests, appreciated a wide variety of foods and even offered the same opinions on hot button issues, or on a less serious tone, movies.

I’m sure we’ve all been there at one time or another and wondered either aloud or quietly, what happened?

As I grow older and hopefully wiser, I learned what happened. Chemistry; or lack thereof.

No matter if the stars align, or the mood at the restaurant or other chosen venue is perfect for a budding romance, sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

Again chemistry.

Recently, I was a front row witness to such an event. A seller practice had been in meetings with two firms - let’s call them Firm A and Firm B – both with stellar reputations in the profession and to borrow a terribly clichéd phrase, it was win-win for the mergee no matter which practice they selected.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sometimes it doesn’t add up

More years ago than I care to remember, I toiled at a local newspaper covering high school sports – and I mean every sport – from football to field hockey. I staffed games in wind chills of 10 below zero and others in drenching rains.

But my most frustrating undertaking in that job encompassed basketball game coverage because you had to rely on a school’s official “statistician” to provide the correct information.

So the basic accounting function of reconciling the box score was often an adventure in itself. Too many times, the players’ scoring did not recap to the actual game result. So, just to balance the books – especially if there were 10 games on the schedule that night- you would award free of charge, a foul shot or field goal here and there to a random, but nonetheless, deserving player.

I recalled those episodes of numerical futility recently when the managing partner of a Northeastern CPA firm said he was interested in merging with a neighboring practice which had two of the three partners ready to exit within a year.

The owner estimated that pending due diligence and the seller’s acceptance of the term sheet; the deal would be consummated in six to nine months.

Excuse me?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Arguing Influence

At one time or another we’ve all participated in what I call “bar arguments.”

Whether debating over who was the best centerfielder or quarterback of all time, to who was the worst (add your own noun here – i.e. athlete, politician, musician).

As a 25 year veteran of the publishing industry, I’ve participated in compiling a number of issues in several industries that attempted to rank spheres of influence usually in groups of 50 or 100. They ranged from companies to individuals to products and, as with any ranking, it was admittedly part concrete and other parts subjective.

At my former stop before landing here, we put out an annual ranking of whom we considered the 100 most influential people in the accounting profession. Those selections were drawn from fairly diverse fields of pursuit from practitioners to vendors as well as politicians and educators.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

On Demand: Cyber Security

As someone who has been a member of Facebook since 2008, one of the most oft-asked questions on that interactive site is “What film have you watched at least five times and are still entertained?”

Now I could go on for an hour minimum on that subject, as I’m sure we all could but one movie that ultimately ceases my incessant channel surfing is “War Games.” For those too young to remember that perhaps forgotten 1983 gem, a teenaged Matthew Broderick (this was pre-Ferris Bueller) is a high school computer nerd who, when attempting to hack into a California-based software gaming company, accidently penetrates the NORAD missile defense system and nearly triggers a nuclear Armageddon with pre-Glastnost Russia.

Now I’m sure not more than a handful of those who saw the movie envisioned the scale and scope of what online hacking would eventually become years later in terms of online thieves stealing personal information, accounts and Social Security numbers.

But over the past five years or so, we’ve seen too many examples of online piracy of personal data at retailers such as Target and Home Depot, health care conglomerates Blue Cross and Anthem and financial concerns like JP Morgan.

In fact since 2005, there have been some 75 data breaches where more than 1 million or so personal records were compromised. Let that number sink in for a while.

Friday, September 8, 2017

As if Hiring Wasn’t Hard Enough!

There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t receive at least one call from a firm owner bemoaning the degree of difficulty and frustration he/she has endured to hire good young people and to get them to remain.

Yes, I get it. Believe me I do.

But then again as I’ve warned them, oh, about 2,000 times, you can’t pin a serious succession plan on the chance that some young high performer will show up at your door ready to lead the practice into the future. And it still amazes me how that advice is treated as seriously as asking my daughter to clean up her room.

But I digress.

I bring up the often painful subject of hiring because I came across an article the other day about a hiring scam that has wended its way into the accounting profession.