Friday, July 21, 2017

Here’s Your Sign!

The late comedian David Brenner used to perform this routine called “the worst doctor.”

The skit was based on the premise that somewhere in the world and of all the people who held a license to practice medicine, someone logically had to be the worst doctor.

I suppose that tragi-comedic theory could be applied to any profession although I would think that it would be somewhat safer physically to be the victim of the world’s worst CPA than the worst doctor or engineer.

Conversely, sometimes good professionals make the worst decisions. Like the owner of a firm in Michigan who was looking to merge up and confided to me that his landlord just offered him a terrific deal on a 5-year lease renewal.

Along those lines, another comedian, Bill Engvall, used to joke about giving people who did idiotic things or asked asinine questions to which the answers were painfully obvious, a sign that said simply “I’m Stupid.”

So I told the practitioner that what he did to save a bit of money effectively eliminated about 90 percent of the firms who may have been interested because now any successor firm either had to eat the lease or try and sublet the space.

By the way, here’s your sign.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It’s all perception until it’s not

Perception is a quirky thing.

As a lifelong boxing fan, I’ve witnessed decisions in bouts that today still defy reality. I’ve seen car accidents where one person is clearly at fault but contended however preposterous, that it was the other guy’s fault for being there.

How about CPA firms with a 90-plus percent realization rates? On a perception level that might seem outstanding, but one might ask, are their billing rates too low?

How about at the end of a meeting with a sales or a client prospect? Whether it went well or not often depends on whom you ask – or for that matter who dominated the conversation.

Which brings me to today’s topic.

Two types of people that have always impressed me are great bartenders and great salespeople.

You know why?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Overcoming the Big “O”

If there’s one thing I never seem to run out of as a consultant who advises CPA firm owners and partners for a living it’s objections.

Everything from compensation to relocation, it’s a given that at least once you will encounter what I have come to label the big “O.”

More often than not, most objections can be overcome with common sense and a bit of reasoning. While other times you feel like you’re pushing against a stone wall with a dust mop.

Case in point. We are currently working with a firm in the Northeast whose owner makes a frightening high salary – enough so that most potential successor firms would quickly review the summary sheet and say no thanks.

But we did however find one willing to work around it – provided the seller firm’s owner agreed to consolidate under one roof – a distance of about 25 miles. Now I realize that in the New York-New Jersey area, 25 miles isn’t exactly like driving in central Nebraska as it often can take over an hour depending on traffic.

He responded with a succinct and terse, “no.”

 So the ensuing conversation went something along these lines…

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Back To the Future

In full disclosure, I’m not one for accurate predictions.

Years ago as a young impressionable junior in high school, I wrote  a letter to William Paley, the legendary head of CBS on why his network would possibly try and make a television show out of the classic movie M*A*S*H. I warned him that the show would fly as well as a one-bladed helicopter.

Several years later, my college roommate turned investment banker told me about a ground floor IPO of a software company just outside of Seattle that was co-founded by a Harvard dropout that was about to debut a new operating system. I told him that computers were so expensive no one would be able to afford one in their homes.

Need I say more?

When I was invited to give a lecture in the early 1990s at Florida Atlantic University, the professor who hosted me said afterwards that within 15 years, millions of people would be working in home-based offices and ordering products via computers. I dismissed it as material for a “Future Shock” sequel.

You think by then I would have learned.

So currently, I am in my fifth year of working remotely, as are 60-65 million others in the U.S. according to Gartner Research, and like those millions of others was stunned at the news of online retailer Amazon purchasing Whole Foods.

Yet despite the mounds of statistics to the contrary on the quantum changes impacting the workplace and overall marketplace, there are those who stubbornly cling to the mindset and traditions of past generations.

Case in point.

Friday, June 23, 2017


Some people just love to hear themselves write.

In this age of myriad electronic communication avenues, some of which I can’t even pronounce much less explain what they are and how they work, there is still something to be said about brevity.

Tell me is there anything worse than what happened to me at the recent AICPA Engage conference in Las Vegas, where I somehow got corralled into listening to a vendor drone on endlessly about his product and how it would absolutely, positively revolutionize the profession as we know it. With 4,000 or so attendees, I’m fairly certain I was not the only one on the wrong end of a Sominex pitch.

But you know what made it worse?

Two days later I received an opus from him in the form of an email, regurgitating every aspect of my eye-rolling exhibitor booth entrapment.

Needless to say, the message quickly found its way into the e-circular file.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Sorry, that’ll cost you

When I speak to a prospective client, I not only explain what we do here, but perhaps more importantly, what we don’t do. For those keeping score at home, we don’t offer the following services: technology consulting, sales training and with rare exceptions, executive recruiting.

There are other companies and persons that are far more knowledgeable and experienced in those areas and we frequently give referrals when it’s obvious we can’t provide someone with the help they need. For now at least we’ll stick with what has propelled us for the past quarter century – ownership and transition assistance.

You know what else we don’t offer?

Unpaid consulting, with the emphasis on “unpaid.”

For those who may not be in sales, unpaid consulting officially begins when you cross that line of demarcation between trying to determine a client’s problem and then blurting out a number of possible solutions.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Replacing the Role Not Just the Body

In one of the great “Dilbert” cartoon strips of all time, the hapless crew of his fictional company is seen giving a product demonstration to a potential buyer. When the client hopeful asks for more information on a particular feature, one of Dilbert’s crew sheepishly admits, “We didn’t bring the guy who can explain that.”

I harkened back to this timeless parody of all-too-frequent corporate culture, when I spoke recently to a managing partner of a small-to-midsized firm in the Northeast who announced plans that he wanted to exit from full-time work in two years or less.

His plan was to have his two younger partners lead an internal succession strategy and assume the reins of the firm.

Okay, sounded doable enough until, like an onion I began peeling back the layers to expose some inconvenient truths.