Friday, December 20, 2013

Here’s To a Great 2014!

To the sound of either cheers or jeers this will mark my final blog for 2013.

I hoped you’ve enjoyed my postings, and if not, after nearly 25 years as a journalist, I’ve developed a fairly thick skin, so I’ll take constructive criticism as well.

So keep those cards and letters coming.

So, to review:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Mentor for the Ages

As many of you know, I spent nearly a dozen years covering the accounting profession.

During that span I met and engaged with a number of the profession’s most influential – occasionally in an adversarial capacity, but far more frequently in a tabula rasa mode – siphoning all the experience and knowledge of others to my rather blank mental slate in the accounting arena. There are those to whom I’ll be forever grateful for their patience and understanding and who helped guide me through a sector that even today, I still find myself in a learning mode.

Friday, December 13, 2013

CPA Firms Rarely Get “Do-Overs”

If you frequently go to the movies, or even if you only occasionally attend a must-see new release, you must have wondered at one time or another why they bother to remake films you thought were great the first time around.

Remember “The Longest Yard” with Burt Reynolds? Apparently it was not enough of a classic so the Tinsel town geniuses decided to give it another go-round a few years back, this time with Adam Sandler. Did anyone actually see that?

If so, I’ll bet you had buyer’s remorse about 10 minutes in.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not one of those people who gets all giddy and smiley during the holiday season. And for those who know me well, it hardly qualifies as a revelation when I admit I’m even less of a warm fuzzy this time of the year than the remaining 11 months.

There’s just something about hanging holiday lights in freezing weather, nearly getting into Pier 6 brawls at retail checkout counters, overeating to the point where I need a personal trainer to return my waistline to more comfortable dimensions and ultimately, receiving  credit card statements that approach my monthly mortgage.

And this past weekend did nothing to sway my anti-holiday sentiment. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Don’t Bet On It!

Our family does not have a great history with regard to predictions.

My grandfather for example, took Germany and 7 points in World War II.

A generation later, my father was offered a half-interest in a parking garage on the west side of Manhattan, which he promptly turned down. Two years later, said garage sat at the foot of the newly revamped Penn Station and Madison Square Garden.

In high school, I laughed out loud when CBS announced that it was launching a new series based on a 1970s hit movie. I assured everyone who would listen that it would last one season, if that.

The series was M*A*S*H.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

“No” is the second-best answer you can give me

In the classic film Wall Street, Charlie Sheen’s overly ambitious Bud Fox character is getting a lecture on life from his blue-collar airline mechanic father who rather simplistically frames what his younger son actually does for a living.  

Despite the racks of custom-tailored suits he wears and the white-shoe brokerage firm where he works, he’s a salesman.

“Dad, I keep telling you, I’m an account executive not a salesman,” he pleads.

“You ask strangers for money don’t you? You’re a salesman.”

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

More Yesterdays than Tomorrows

As we approach Thanksgiving, or as I like to refer to it, the poster child for the Ab-Roller machine, a big shout out to all those folks who were kind enough to send out birthday wishes to me this weekend via Facebook. There were 23 in all, folks who wisely availed themselves of the immediacy and price-friendly properties of that social media channel.

Not to mention sidestepping the awkwardness of having to purchase one of those belated “sorry this is late” cards. I absolutely hate doing that, but it’s amazing how often I find myself in that exact situation.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Half Century – Looking Back

Like most Americans who were around and cognizant of the world around them, I remember exactly where I was 50 years ago today, when the news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy hit the airwaves. I was taking a spelling test in Mrs. Beck’s second-grade class when Dr. Glickman, the principal of P.S. 133 in Bellerose, N.Y., made the somber announcement on the public address system that he had been shot.

I arrived home that afternoon and found my mother tearfully glued to a transistor radio as updates unfolded. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Your Practice is not the Second Coming of Snapchat!

Last week, I read - with a high degree of incredulity I might add - that the 20-something founder of the Snapchat website was offered $3 billion to sell the portal and its application to the powers that be at Facebook. Now that mind-boggling offer was not in stock, but rather an all-cash deal  of a 3, followed by nine zeros, ready for deposit at any institution large enough to handle it.

And he turned it down.

Let me repeat that for emphasis. He turned the offer down.

Now this is a three-year-old website that has generated exactly NO revenues since its inception. None, nada, nein, nyet. For those unfamiliar with Snapchat, its application “times out” pictures posted to the site for 10 seconds or less before they disappear – a handy relief for those embarrassingly uploaded morning-after selfies from a wild night before and safely out of view of college admissions offices and prospective employers.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Don’t Try This at Home

For those of you who occasionally like to get your hands dirty, remember back when you could actually perform both major and minor repairs on your car without the need for computer scopes or space-age tools that somehow only auto dealers and high-priced garages have access to?

Sadly, automotive technology has sort of phased out what we used to refer to as the “shade tree” mechanic. And while the DIY auto tinkerer is gradually becoming a thing of the past, unfortunately many CPA firm owners still fancy themselves as “shade tree” M&A facilitators.

Almost two years in my consulting incarnation, I’m still bowled over by the number of small-to-midsized firms who have it in their minds that executing a successful merger is simply a matter of signing on the dotted line and going out for a celebratory meal afterwards.

I have a warning label for this: Don’t try this at home. But nevertheless many still do. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The World According to Croce – Not Jim…Pat

The importance of punctuality was instilled in me at an early age. My father always told me that if you had an appointment at 10 am and you arrived at 9:45, you were late.

I once interviewed the chairman of a Fortune 100 company whose adherence to punctuality was so unbending that he would schedule meetings at odd times such as 7:53 or 8:31. Straggling staffers who arrived after the appointed times would find the door locked. Five minutes later, the chairman would re-open  the door so the parade of latecomers would be forced into a “walk of shame” - on full display  before those who came on time.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Will it play in Muscat?

Recently I was privileged to host a roundtable discussion of international managing partners who were gathered in New York City. Their firms were scattered across the globe from Lagos, Nigeria to Muscat, Oman (who knew Oman even had accounting firms?) to more familiar international venues as Berlin, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro.

For three hours, I spoke on the trends and issues facing firms on domestic shores – occasionally pausing to regale them with jokes and anecdotes whose punch lines few of the attendees appreciated, or for that matter even got.

Note to readers: American humor doesn’t play well in Muscat.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Going to “Market”

As noted in this space last week, the conference travel schedule for our company principals has more resembled 11th hour campaign stops just prior to Election Day than a measured and deliberate agenda, but such is the mid-to-late fall season within public accounting.

In just a few short months, our phone calls will be embraced with all the warmth and respect of a persistent subway panhandler in dire need of a shower as our clients no doubt will be snorkeling under a tsunami of 1040s. Succession planning or upstream mergers will be at, or near, the last thing on their minds.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Out of the Mouths of Babes!

Like many of you, I’m old enough to recall when there were just 7 channels on television and you actually had to muster the energy to get out of your chair to change the program. Like on Thursday nights for example, we went straight from F-Troop to Ironside.  

Flash forward a few decades or so and hundreds of cable stations later.

Since our business revolves around succession and aging partners approaching retirement or in some instances putting it off, you can imagine I do not regularly conduct lengthy conversations with younger folks or “Millienials” employed at CPA firms.

But after this week I’m rethinking that strategy.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Same Time Next Year?

Was it really one year ago that I nearly had to tap into the FAA network in order to find a flight home from Florida in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy?

Since then I’ve questioned the wisdom of leaving a venue that was 75 degrees and sunny in order to get to a 50-degree house without power and running water. Then exactly four days later, I attended a conference in  California  only get caught in the eye of a Nor’easter on the return trip that kindly afforded me a bed for the night on the floor of the Detroit airport.

I’m happy to report, that thus far, I’ve encountered far kinder and gentler, weather on my conference schedule.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Whether it’s an Audit or Audi, Service is Service

A few columns ago, I either regaled or bored you with my travails of car shopping and all the hair-pulling peripheral decisions that go along with it.

Well, after debating longer than the budget battle in Washington, we finally made a decision and opted for a vehicle minted in Germany (hint: it’s not Mercedes or BMW). In fact, we picked it up last evening and drove it home with the care of guiding a toddler as they learn to walk – uncertain of when the first parking lot door dent or flying road debris will tarnish the now-unblemished exterior, only knowing that it eventually will.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I Never Realized I Was so Popular!

My suspect technology pedigree has pretty much spanned the gamut  of ineptness - from muted snickering by many of my colleagues - to knee-slapping hilarity from members of my own family. And as many of you who check in with me twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays for all you newcomers) know, it’s been pretty well documented in this space.

Some might even argue that’s it’s been over-reported.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Welcome to Tax Season and by the way, You’re Fired!

In another lifetime I once interviewed the former head of a hotel chain whose properties were largely franchised. He was a no-nonsense Austrian with an uncompromising work ethic and an obsession with quality. And he had this simple rule for all those who operated under his brand. At the end of the year he would produce a ranking of all the properties in terms of cleanliness, service, guest feedback etc.

Those hotels that fell in the bottom 10 percent of the ranking would have their franchise rights to the brand immediately taken away and politely told to pursue other opportunities. The same held true for the top-level executives.

But to be fair, he applied the same criteria to himself. If his ranking fell below a certain pre-determined level, he would voluntarily resign.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Does That Firm Come with a Sun Roof?

I’ve spent parts of the last two weekends performing one of my least favorite tasks.

Yeah, I know for many of you, that’s probably a fairly lengthy list, but in the spirit of brevity, I’ll be direct.

Car shopping.

I would put that right up there with cleaning the gutters or shoveling heavy snow.

I know many of you are probably thinking what’s wrong with this guy? After all, most folks relish the often exciting process of getting into a new shiny vehicle with a sparkling interior that has not yet met a smudgy child’s fingerprint or become the victim of an accidental beverage spill.

And you’d probably be right.

Friday, October 4, 2013

“Out of Office” Assistants

As most of you probably know my technology pedigree is, to be kind, rather unspectacular. If you were to compare my IT knowledge, to say, a reading level, it would lie somewhere between “Fun with Dick and Jane,” and “Goodnight Moon.”

Nonetheless, no one involved with the accounting profession on any level – or for that matter any industry - has even the slightest doubt the major role that technology now plays in all facets of operations – whether cloud-based applications that help usher in a paperless practice, to smartphones and tablets that allow greater out-of-office reach and activity.

Which brings me to the topic de jour.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How “Passionate” is Your Firm?

As someone who has worked for several companies who regularly operated on the mantra: “The beatings will not stop until morale improves,” I often admired those organizations who manage instill motivation and passion in their employees particularly in today’s high octane and performance-driven workplace culture.

I’m sure we all can cite examples of companies on the opposite end of the workplace spectrum of my former employers – Southwest Airlines to pick one - where a former divorce attorney named Herb Kelleher brazenly went head to head against the established air carriers while building an employee culture and on-time performance that had consistently rated among the best in the country for decades.

Friday, September 27, 2013

“Sandwiched” in the Crowd? Don’t Shout Out, Stand Out!

Years ago  while attending a conference in New Orleans, a colleague suggested at the session’s lunch break we skip the perfunctory plate of rubber chicken and instead, leave the hotel to sample one of the Crescent City’s more famous culinary staples, the Po’ Boy sandwich. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How Strong is Your Brand?

A legendary investor once joked that he knew a sure fire way to ensure getting a $10 million return investing in an airline. All you needed to do was start with $20 million.


That strategy sounds a lot like the one deployed by a hapless portfolio manager who managed a 401(k) I held with a former employer and whose annual returns were between 2 and 3 percent. I was sure he invested the employees’ contributions in dismal performing sectors such as airlines. Only an internal mutiny succeeded in finally showing him and his third-party administration company the door.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The “Apple” of My Eye?

As I’ve often explained in this space, I’m still about three area codes away from being conversant in tech-speak.

When I attended technology-centric sessions at various conferences, halfway through you could find me playing word jumble having long ago lost any understanding of the subject matter.

When my wife and I finally purchased a flat screen TV, I had to scour Angie’s List to locate someone who could program the DVR system.

When I encounter an IT problem, I adopt the Woody Allen approach to solving it. I plead nicely for several minutes for it to correct itself and if that doesn’t work, then I start to hit.

But like 80 percent of the folks in the public accounting profession I do own a smartphone – an iPhone to be exact having jumped off the Blackberry wagon two years ago. And in contrast to my past tech failures, thus far I have been able to perform the requisite functions and have even managed to download a number of applications – including my flashlight which has been invaluable during storm-induced power outages.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Save Costco for your house, not practice niches

Ok, I’ll admit I enjoy holding an executive membership at Costco.

There’s something about floor-to-ceiling pallets overstuffed with economy-sized items that somehow transforms me into Kim Kardashian at a Jimmy Choo sale. Then, when my American Express bill arrives at the end of each month, I always regret buying that extra laundry detergent that comes in a container the size of a Fiat or that package of 1,000 AA batteries.

But I have long admired the business model of Costco and its price-club competitors such as BJ’s and Sam’s Club, as they inevitably manage to get you to spend four times the amount you would normally on weekly shopping at your neighborhood supermarket.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Admissions of an Anti-Changer

In a past life I once helped manage a Tex-Mex restaurant. On a sizzling Arizona afternoon, the general manager gathered the staff for a review of pending changes that he planned to implement. After surveying a dining room full of concerned faces he proceeded to draw a clock on a sheet of paper with the hands showing high noon. After displaying it to the rank and file, he then furiously scribbled on a second sheet – it was another clock but this one displaying the time at 12:05.

His message was simple but stunningly effective, even a five minute increment can represent change.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Kickoff to M&A

A few columns back I waxed on about how it could not possibly have been the onset of the Labor Day weekend and the traditional curtain call on another summer, as it seemed like just the week before I was cleaning the Weber and refilling the propane tanks in preparation for a season of grilling.

And now that the NFL schedule has officially launched, that sort of sends a clarion that the accounting profession (and ancillary folks like us) is gearing up for a final rush before the tax organizers begin going out.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Time to Wake Up and Face North!

My father has this term he occasionally employs as sort of a rude wake-up call for those needing to get back to the real word.

He calls it “windshield reality.”

The roots of this axiom are predicated on the sobering image of crashing through the windshield of a car during a head-on collision. He used it on yours truly and my younger brother on a number of memorable occasions – most notably when I learned that I would not have a career in any professional sport and several years later when I applied to an Ivy League school only to receive my application back a week later marked “return to sender.”

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Above all, better is better!

As a former boxer I’ve certainly taken my share of punches and on rare occasions found myself in the unenviable position of staring up at the ceiling and wondering why I happened to be on the floor.  For those who know me well, I dare say they would probably put the connected punch count much higher than my conservative estimates.

Heading toward the tail end of last week it felt like I made an ill-advised comeback to the squared circle, when a merger that I would have gambled a large portion of my 401(k) on it closing, fell apart at the 11th hour, with the disappointment over the collapse hitting me like George Foreman in his prime.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How to Keep Your Job: A Primer

Ah, Labor Day weekend! The traditional end to another glorious (hopefully) summer.

Elementary and secondary students prepare for another year (at least here in the Northeast)  a sure signal that your daily newspapers will approach the size of Al Gore’s waistline, stuffed with back-to-school circulars and specials- and the hope that you can squeeze out those last few outdoor grillings before the first frosts settle in.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is Your Star Fading?

The other day I came across a fascinating slideshow feature on one of the news websites, on fading restaurant chains – brands that years ago, enjoyed highly profitable heydays, but now whose best years are clearly behind them.

Remember The Ground Round? (Where else could an economically challenged college student get a burger and a large beer for under $8)? How about Sambo's? (Ah, those late night breakfasts!) Bennigan's? (Loved those hanging ferns and Tiffany lamps). Steak and Ale? (A must if you were lucky enough to convince that office girl on your first job to have dinner with you). Burger Chef? Mr. Donut? Chi-Chi's? (Terrific salsa, which by the way is still sold in retail outlets). No doubt many of you spent a dollar or two or three at these establishments, replete with culinary memories or special occasions. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cheat on your Taxes? Take a Cab!

The state of New York to no one’s surprise can be maddeningly slow when it comes to government-related matters.

Whether it’s archaic legislation that needs to be changed or the umpteenth civil engineering project that’s months and even years overdue and millions of dollars over budget, residents of the Empire State have become more or less resigned to the glacial pace of bureaucracy in its capital city of Albany.

But giving credit where and when credit is due, I have to laud a recent proposal  from the Department of Taxation and Finance that captured some local headlines for what I consider a very creative solution to an age-old problem.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Succession Crises, it’s Not Just for CPAs Anymore

This weekend, after being trounced in straight sets by my tennis partner of 18 years, I happened to click on an AM station that featured nationally acclaimed financial planning expert Ric Edelman, author of a number of best-selling investment tomes including “The Truth About Money” and “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth.”

On Sundays, he has for a number of years, hosted a show where he and several colleagues field callers’ questions which run the gamut from investing in securities, what types of insurance to buy and strategies to save for college.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Curb Appeal

Despite being upsold no less than 4 times by one of the major phone/cable providers to the point where TV viewers at Chez Carlino have the option of watching any one of 210 channels (including, I believe, The Cricket Channel from the U.K.), each evening the remote in my spouse and children’s hands rarely deviates from HGTV or The Food Network.

So I’m often forced to meander upstairs to catch The Ultimate Fighter or any of the throngs of sporting events airing each night. We do however, compromise on Thursdays when “Person of Interest” comes on.

But I digress.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jerks at Work

Although we rarely, if ever, engage in executive recruiting in the course of our consulting engagements, I’m always surprised at the number of requests we get from folks who are unhappy in their present capacity and are anxious to relocate to what they hope are greener and happier pastures.

And make no mistake, we’re happy to do what we can to help and on a personal level, I can certainly sympathize with inept and unappreciative management, people I would barely let park my car, never mind entrust with my and my family’s future.

Lately, I’ve noticed an influx of what I call workplace “litmus” tests in newspapers and online blogs on whether you basically have a jerk for a boss and by proxy, work for a jerk company.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Time to Take Out a Hit on This TV Disaster

I’m going to request some latitude on content for today’s missive, as I’m going to focus on popular culture, instead of highlighting critical accounting-centric issues that are impacting practitioners.

But since it involves tax, or rather tax evasion, I could make the lukewarm argument that it has an accounting connection in some aspect.

No, this involves two of arguably my least favorite people on the planet, one Teresa Guidice and her simian-like husband, Guiseppe “Joe” Guidice, stars of the equally offensive “Real Housewives of New Jersey” reality series, which in my opinion rivals “Jersey Shore” in terms of vacuous viewing.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Newest Accounting Consultants?

In the dozen or so years that I’ve been affiliated in some way shape or form with the public accounting profession, I’ve written and spoken to firms and practitioners about competition and the importance of being aware  about exactly who and what, pose competitive threats to their practices.

But, as consultants, advising firms on best practices – along with numerous hours of teaching CPE – comprise a large part of our jobs.

And practicing what we preach, we’re each acutely aware of others in our field, including those with stellar reputations and those who, to be kind, are a step or two below that.

Friday, July 26, 2013


As a college undergraduate more years ago than I want to recall, my alma mater, unofficially of course, classified the student body into two distinct factions – the Greeks, those who pledged and were members in good standing of a fraternity or sorority – or what they termed G.D.I.’s – an acronym for God D….d Independents.

Outside of occasionally hosting beer and grain alcohol-fueled mixers with members of an attractive sorority house, I never quite saw the benefits of going Greek, so I remained part of the latter group during the four years I spent on my parents’ tuition payroll. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

CPA Firms and the 50-Cent Coffee

This coming Saturday I will attend my first – and despite the imposing anniversary milestone – hopefully, not my last, high school reunion.

I won’t wax nostalgic and tell you it seems like just yesterday that after a small family barbecue in the backyard, I walked up to the podium on a beautiful late Sunday afternoon and much to my parents’ amazement, received my high school diploma.

No, quite honestly, it seems like a long time ago.

A REALLY long time ago.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What Will Be Your Takeaway?

Years ago I was fortunate to have been granted an hour with Irving Rudd, a legendary sports publicist in New York who recounted for me his time in ticket sales for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the importance of being appreciated by an employer. Working for nearly two years without a raise, he approached the team’s notoriously tight-fisted owner – Walter O’Malley – about the possibility of receiving a larger paycheck.

To his surprise, O’Malley smiled, put his arm around Rudd’s shoulder in an avuncular manner and escorted him to to his office window that overlooked Montague Street in Brooklyn. 

“Irving, do you see all those people down there?” O’Malley asked pointing to the heavy pedestrian traffic. After Rudd nodded, O’Malley then asked him point blank, “If we went down there and asked each one of them, how many do you think would immediately trade places with you to work for the Dodgers at your present salary?”

That more or less ended the negotiations.

Friday, July 12, 2013

TV Mob Boss’ Timing no Match for “The Boss”

Like millions of others, I was heartbroken over the recent death of James Gandolfini, whose portrayal of one of the most complex TV characters of all time – New Jersey mob capo Tony Soprano – made the eponymous HBO series “The Sopranos” a Sunday night must-watch at Chez Carlino.

The burly Gandolfini injected equal parts ruthlessness and sympathy into the Tony Soprano figure, and elevated him from character actor status into a global star.

But sadly, once the obits and tributes stopped, I read where the biggest beneficiary of Gandolfini’s sudden death at age 51 - following a Bacchanal-style meal and binge drinking at a Rome hotel - appears not to be his young children or widow, but Uncle Sam.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Do You Really Know Your Competition?

A number of years ago, I was in a Wal-Mart attempting to fulfill a lengthy “honey-do” list and somewhere between the housewares and automotive sections, I noticed a small kiosk offering tax-prep services from one of the major vendors.

As someone who was covering the accounting profession at the time, I engaged the representative in a brief but lively conversation about the offerings, which included very basic 1040 work and refund anticipation loans – or RALs, which would come under federal scrutiny a few short years later.

It was then I realized that CPA firms faced competition, from multiple avenues and not just other CPA firms. If just 2-3 percent of the customers who shopped at a big box retailer like Wal-Mart opted to have their taxes prepared there, that would exceed on exponential levels the number of clients a small or mid-sized CPA firm would see in several years.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Succession or Regression?

Last week I attended the annual confab of one of the state societies in the Midwest where – with fingers crossed - our exhibit booth was in full display to the hundreds of attendees at least some of whom we hoped would avail themselves of our services.

As it turned out, many belonged to my self-coined acronym - SPISCPE – sole practitioners in search of continuing professional education. Brief conversations with several resulted in similar outcomes – either they were looking practice continuation agreements or they would work at their firms until they no longer could. This included one elderly owner who navigated to my booth on a motorized scooter and sported a military tattoo from the Korean War.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sartorial Dilemma

Last weekend, we hosted a graduation party for my youngest, who in September, will quickly transform her mom and dad into the proverbial empty nesters when she leaves to ply her considerable academic talents at one of the New York’s top state universities.

During the five-hour soiree in which attendees literally inhaled more than 12 full catering trays of hot and cold food along with 10 magnums of wine, untold cases of beer and nearly a hundred bottled waters, one young woman – an accounting major at one of the mid-Atlantic colleges – pulled me aside asked me something no one had before in my dozen years of involvement with the accounting profession.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sheepskin Surge

While in college I made an itinerant stop at a local establishment that sold, ahem, adult beverages, (one of many during my quadrennial experiment in academic underachievement) and walked headlong into a rather testy exchange between the counter clerk and a middle-aged woman. The man apparently had bemoaned the fact that he was having trouble finding a full-time job and was being sternly lectured by the lady and the importance of preparing yourself for a career.

“So what have you been doing all these years?” she asked.

With perfect aplomb he responded, “Getting my Ph.D.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

A number of years ago, Victor Mature, the hulking, broad-shouldered star of a number of classic sword and sandal epics of the 1950s and 1960s, applied for a membership at one of the premier country clubs in Beverly Hills. The chairman of the club at the time quickly denied his application citing the fact the club shied away from having actors as members.

“But I’m no actor,” Mature protested. “And I have 67 films to prove it.”

Sometimes I sort of know how he felt.

Despite covering the profession for 12 years, drafting nearly 1,000 columns and articles plus another 18 months on the consulting side of the business, I’m still wending my way through the various nuances of public accounting and most importantly, still maintaining a tabula rasa so to speak.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Service with a Sneer

Years ago I tore out an ad in a local newspaper that touted a suit sale at one of the tri-state area’s most recognizable department store brands. I won’t disclose which one, but they have a rather large unit in midtown Manhattan. My current business wardrobe at that time had not been updated since the Carter Administration and was in the market for a suit and possibly a sport coat as well.

So, with the promise of a new look I began the process of matching, fitting and posing in the three-sided mirror and eventually decided on several items that hopefully would carry me for the next several years. But there was one problem. They had no tailor on the premises. I requested to see one of the floor managers and asked him point blank how his store could advertise a men’s suit sale and incredulously not have a tailor available should someone actually want to buy something.

He looked at me like a dim-witted contestant stumped on Final Jeopardy and mumbled a sort of apology. Needless to say I went elsewhere and have not been back since.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Client Listening: A Primer

I always divide my working year into two parts – each with a very different M.O.

From mid-February until the first week in May, our clients (at least ones in the smaller firms) are hidden deeper than someone in the witness protection program – buried in 1040s and treating a phone call from me with all the warmth of a speeding ticket. It’s during this time we go to work on the managing partners of much larger firms since their filing season workload is often significantly less than their respective staffs.

The second half of the year is divided between attending a number of conferences and in-person client visits - as their post-season demeanor becomes far more approachable. Now that any delays, snafus and software glitches are relegated to a footnote, we can sit down and rationally speak out succession and transition issues.

But there are other forms of transition other than a lack of an internal succession plan. Like client transition.

If and when I’m privileged to be asked to present at one of the profession’s marquee events – there’s one point in my sessions that no matter how many times I’ve addressed it, never loses its “wow” factor – that being a survey that showed more than one-third of current clients are either actively looking or at least thinking about switching accounting firms.

Friday, June 7, 2013

There’s Smart and then there’s Smartphones

My father is fond of telling anyone who will listen that his eldest son (yes, that would be me) graduated college in just three terms – Nixon’s, Ford’s and Carter’s. Or, that if translated into Latin, my diploma could be interpreted as Summa Cum Lousy.

Ba Dum Bum.

My underwhelming academic pedigree aside, I felt that after 12 years of covering the accounting profession including a sizeable portion from a technology standpoint, that I was reasonably well equipped and knowledgeable enough to surprise my long-suffering spouse with what I considered the perfect Mother’s Day gift – a new Smartphone. Her current one resembled one of the communicators from the original Star Trek series and somehow it regularly found more dead zones than a Stephen King novel.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

With Uncle Sam, There’s Never a Shortage of Material

Several years ago, I was at one of the profession’s major conferences, when I was approached by a managing partner who point blank asked me how I regularly came up with new material for my editorials. At the time, my publication came out 22 times a year and I was also the regular Monday e-columnist for our website. So all told, I was charged with writing roughly 70-75 opinions per year.

I told him quite honestly that while like any other editor I had occasional bouts with writer’s block (or more accurately, procrastination) that often, the columns just write themselves.

Like today’s for example. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

I’ve Been Thinking About It

About a century ago I was employed very briefly as a sales representative for European Health Spas, a long-defunct chain of fitness gyms whose main objective was to sign up as many unwitting people as possible to the most expensive and long-indentured membership contracts that the company offered.

Today, that strategy employed could easily be labeled a “bait and switch,” but then it was simply regarded as an “upgrade” but hardly in the same vein as say, “you want fries with that order?” Each Monday and promptly at 8:30 am, we would have an all hands on board staff meeting, where we would dissect and discuss potential roadblocks that each of us might encounter when making a presentation.

The most common was when a potential, who obviously had not been at, or near, a gym since the Nixon Administration, would remark, “Well, I’ve been thinking about it.” 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Here’s a Succession Plan for The Donald: You’re Fired!

Over the long holiday weekend, I admittedly, paid far more attention to the tenderness quotients of burgers, hot dogs and several choice rib eye steaks, than the succession crisis that is not only affecting the accounting profession, but the country as a whole.

I rationalized that the shortened work week would come soon enough.

And then one of the most annoying and ego-driven human beings on the planet went and spoiled my Monday morning as I tried to relax with a steaming oversized cup of French roast and my requisite trio of morning newspapers.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Zen and the Art of Accounting Leadership

Over the past dozen or so years I’ve given more presentations on the growing trends and how I envision the firm of the future in the accounting profession than is probably allowed under the Geneva Convention.

Whether it’s new regulations, updated technologies, or growing client niches – you name it and at one time or another I’ve created a PowerPoint slide on it and addressed an audience about it. Lately however, I’m getting a lot of questions about what skill sets are critical to the successful leadership of a firm – and more specifically, those that are decidedly non-accounting.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Career Path(s)

Shortly after declaring her college of choice and ending a decision period that made LeBron James’ appear instantaneous, my daughter somberly announced at the dinner table that she was worried about post-graduation and what she was going to do.

As I would later find out, no, not her high school graduation, which is roughly four weeks away, but her COLLEGE commencement. I looked at her incredulously and told her to examine the situation both calmly and rationally.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Taxing Time

Over the past several weeks, it seems that the subject of taxes has made more headlines than Kim Kardashian’s absurd maternity outfits or the ongoing enlargement of White House Spokesman’s Jay Carney’s nose when asked about the Benghazi debacle.

If it isn’t another numerical treatise on the length and complexity of the current Tax Code (seven times longer than The Bible for those keeping score at home), it’s the recent Senate passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act – which would allow states to collect sales tax from online retailers - or the recent kerfuffle over why the IRS suddenly decided to target organizations affiliating themselves with Tea Party or beliefs in limited government.

But what caught my attention was a recent poll from the Pew Research Center that indicated more taxpayers than you would think actually don’t mind doing their taxes. Since I equate filling out tax forms and researching alphabetic schedules on par with having a sharpened pebble in your shoe on a 10-mile hike, I read with more than a little surprise that about a third of more than 1,000 adults surveyed said they either liked (29 percent) or , now get this…loved (5 percent) doing their taxes.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Project MATS: The Free TV Guide for M&A and Succession

TV Guide used to be a staple at Chez Carlino, with an emphasis on “used to be.”

I still see people occasionally picking it up on the supermarket checkout line, but with the advent of the free online program guides supplied by local cable providers, along with their quarterly magazines replete with features and interviews, I long ago ceased seeing the point of spending money for a service that you can get for free.

So TV Guide and I parted company some time ago.

Which, in a sort of circuitous route, brings me to today’s topic: Project MATS – an acronym for merger, acquisition, transition, succession. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Here’s What I’m Looking For…

Yesterday I received a call from a buyer client who runs a fairly large and well-established practice in the New York metropolitan area. As managing partner, he was looking specifically for back-up for one of his owners and, ideally, it would be a young practitioner with a decent book of business who wants to merge into a larger firm.

I listened attentively to this all-too-familiar wish list and promised that should I encounter that type of seller whose growth strategy dovetails that perfectly into his, he would be the first call I made.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Dim Bulbs

Last week not only did I receive correspondence informing me of my 10th high school reunion (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) but also a personally addressed letter to yours truly from the district supervisor of ConEd.

For those of you situated outside the confines of the Lower Hudson Valley of New York State, Consolidated Edison or ConEd for short, is the premier power supplier to the metro New York area and often performs that service to what could be generously described as very mixed reviews.

In any event, the letter began as such…”Mr. Carlino, we are aware that your neighborhood has been impacted by a number of power outages in recent months (only four but who’s counting?) and we are about to take certain steps to boost our infrastructure….”

Friday, April 26, 2013

CPA Draft Day

Last night, the National Football League held its annual draft. You know the glacial process where each team “on the clock” gets 10 minutes to make a selection from the best of the best among collegiate pigskin prospects.

Years ago, when the event was held at one of the major hotels in New York, I had the fortune of knowing the head banquet manager at the venue who quickly ushered my wife and I into a pair of front row seats. We arrived safely ahead of all the “draftniks” who, incredibly waited outside all night for the opportunity to urge on their teams  (scream at the top of their lungs actually) to draft that skull-crushing linebacker, the Heisman Trophy quarterback who can uncork a perfect 70-yard spiral, or an offensive tackle was roughly the size of a brontosaurus.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More Yesterdays than Tomorrows

The other day I received a hefty-sized letter with a Florida return address and a last name that rang faintly familiar. Since it was stamped I knew it wasn’t likely to be one of the 43 credit card offers that overpopulate my mailbox with promises of a .0002 interest rate should I decide to transfer my current balance.

No, to my surprise and admittedly no small sense of shock, it was an invitation to attend my (add your own choice of year here because I’m not telling) high school reunion. The event, staged over three days in July includes a pool party, a meet and greet at one of the local watering holes, a gala event on Saturday evening and finally, a Sunday barbecue on one of Long Island’s more famous beaches.

Curiosity if nothing else will have me RSVP’ing  the Saturday event, but the wincing thought of hundreds of middle-aged classmates in swimwear most of whom haven’t seen the inside of a gym since the Carter Administration, will likely prompt me to send a “regrets only” for the pool party and beachcomber shindig.

As I’d indicated above there was also a bit of a shock factor to accompany the invite.