Tuesday, August 23, 2016

You’ve got to Start Sometime

There was big news at Chez Carlino a few weeks ago.

After slogging through two years at temporary positions, where she did everything from walking dogs, taking her boss’s car to the repair shop to supervising contractors on construction of a pool, my eldest daughter landed a full-time and hopefully, permanent gig at a marketing and communications company, which incidentally were her two pursuits of study in college.

Not to temper her feelings of employment euphoria, I told her one of the first things she needed to do after signing up for company health benefits was to enroll in their 401(k) savings plan.

After outlining to her the basic principles of compound investing and explaining how if she began saving now by the time she was ready to retire she would have a sizeable sum to begin drawing from, she hopefully will take my advice and do just that.

In a remarkable coincidence to my paternal savings lecture, financial services specialist Bankrate recently released a survey which said that more Americans are saving for retirement than ever before.

That’s the good news.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda…

When it comes to facing reality, there are two types of people in this world – those who listen and learn and those who do neither despite repeated efforts to convince them otherwise.

Case in point, people (who shall remain anonymous) that continue to lend my brother-in-law money, despite a two-decade long track record of being stiffed on a regular basis, they continue to write checks.

Once was enough for me, I didn’t need to learn that lesson twice.

This brings us to today’s subject, succession, or, in too many unfortunate cases, lack thereof.

The other day I was visiting a long-time client, who as he approaches age 70 continues to put in absurd hours when at that period in his life he should be lying about his golf handicap like most of his peers. Instead he comes into the office on most weekends even during the 1040 off season. His son works at the firm but the owner told me in all honesty that he lacks the leadership skills to carry the firm into the next generation.

So, naturally, I bring up the “M” word – merger.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Balancing Act

I once was visiting a colleague’s house when suddenly a landscaping truck pulled noisily into the driveway. It struck me as strange because I knew him to be a real DIYer, everything from performing simple repairs on his car to re-grouting his bathroom tile.

So when I asked him why he outsources his lawn maintenance, he replied, “I already work 60 hours a week, I don’t need to work 63.”

Good point. And a prime example of one of the fastest growing and most in-demand job perks over the past 10 years – “work life balance.”

Whether we like it or not, we’re working longer hours today than previous generations – no doubt fueled by technology which has enabled an overlap between the office and the home. Twenty years ago it was unthinkable to be answering emails on a Sunday but think about how many of us do exactly that?

Toward that end, I ran across an article that rated the 25 best companies in the U.S. for work-life balance as rated by the company review site Indeed. To qualify the company must have at least 100 employee reviews on Indeed and hire primarily full time workers. The list did not include colleges, non-profits, government or military organizations.

The companies were rated on such criteria as flexible work schedules, employee wellness programs and, of course, perks.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Are They Partner Material or a Lifetime Employee?

Not long ago I was discussing internal succession with the managing partner of a firm in the Midwest. During the course of the conversation, the elephant in the room emerged when I asked point blank if there was anyone on his bench who could step up to an equity role and be part of the succession team.

He thought about it for a while and said there was a long-time employee who could conceivably assume partner status. He’d been with the firm nearly 20 years and had performed well. But admittedly there was one serious roadblock – he was not credentialed.

This was a moment I like to call “windshield reality” – where the verbal effect can often mirror the impact of being thrown through a car windshield in an accident.

I told him in no uncertain terms that the candidate has made a commitment only to being his employee, not to the accounting profession or else in two decades he certainly could have found the time to get his CPA certification.

He thanked me for my analysis and went on to admit him anyway. I would be interested to see where this firm is in say, five years.

Aside from “what’s the multiple?” one of the more frequent questions I’m asked is what qualities constitutes partner material? Now, there’s no blanket answer for that one, as obviously the circumstances surrounding the admission of a new partner will vary from firm to firm.

But I’ve taken the time to compile a short checklist on some of the characteristics of evaluating potential candidates for an equity role.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Of Accountants, Dentists and Auto Mechanics

At my rapidly advancing age, I’m always comforted when I receive a clean bill of health from Dr. Jeff, my dentist. I may have long ago lost my hair, but I take pride in the fact I still have my original 28 (sans wisdom teeth) intact.

So at the end of my semi-annual check-up and cleaning earlier this week, we reminisced at how long we’ve enjoyed our doctor-patient relationship. For those keeping score at home, my first visit to him was in 1995 and four grandchildren (for him) and another daughter for me (now 21) since then, we’re still keeping the faith.

Now that’s even more surprising when you consider that Dr. Jeff practices in New York City and I have to take the train in to see him, despite the convenience of roughly 50 dental practitioners within a five-mile radius of my suburban home. But when you find someone you like and perhaps more importantly, trust, you keep the ship sailing in the same direction.

He’s never recommended any unnecessary work and many times told me that if I ever had a problem on a weekend, he’d gladly come in the office for an emergency. Thankfully, I never had to call in that favor.

I’m sure it’s a similar story with regard to choosing and staying with, an accountant. As a matter of fact, I’ve had Rocco, my accountant, two years longer than Dr. Jeff.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Some Folks Will Never Get It

I once had a professor in college who frequently employed a common expression but with a colorful twist. For example, when you painstakingly showed someone the correct procedure for something, and they did their best impression of ignoring it, he would straighten up to his full 5-foot-5 inch frame, wag his finger and said, “you can lead some people to water, but invariably they will p#&$ in it.”

Graphically put, but point well taken.

Now, within our company we also have an expression when meeting with clients and that being we don’t pretend we’re experts in things we’re not. We don’t offer services such as executive recruiting, or technology consulting although we have excellent referrals for each.

Another area we don’t wade in too deep is training and marketing although again there are some very good people in the profession who do and we’re glad to pass any inquiries along.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t understand the critical importance of each.

Unfortunately, our understanding of that tandem’s value doesn’t translate universally to the profession.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How Technology Killed the Live Conference

There are certain events in your life – good or bad – that no matter how long ago they happened, you remember exactly when and where you were. For the purpose of brevity in today’s missive, let’s focus on technology.

For example, I was at a friend’s house in 1984 when his wife was typing on her IBM 286 equipped with a Prometheus modem who explained she was “talking” to one of her colleagues at the large cosmetics company where they worked. Their “conversation” came across as simple block letter text, but that was my inaugural introduction to e-mail.

Some 15 years later, a CPA friend who needed some more credit hours in order to fulfill his CPE requirements for the year explained that he was going to attend a “webinar” – an online course he could take while seated at his desk.

“One day this is going to replace live conferences,” he predicted. When I asked how, he explained that the savings in terms of travel, lodging (if the event was a regional or national) not to mention time, would be huge determining factors in terms of attendance.

Obviously that didn’t happen overnight.