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.