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.