Friday, August 28, 2015

A.I.? N.O.!

In full disclosure, during the two-year stretch I had an iPhone, I availed myself of the artificial intelligence feature Siri, perhaps on a dozen occasions.

Truth be told, she kind of creeped me out – sort of like a female version of Hal from 2001, A Space Odyssey, although I’m sure, far less malevolent. And I would guess she was helpful maybe 50 percent of the time.

And now that I have an Android, I’ve yet to use the Google Now app.

But my feelings toward A.I. notwithstanding, it’s a concept that’s not going away anytime soon. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Employers of Choice or Choice of Employers?

I once knew someone who told me that he was proud never having grown up and acted his age because he never saw the benefit of acting like an adult.

A novel approach to aging to be sure, but it also goes a long way toward explaining why he had no less than a dozen career changes over the course of his working life. Apparently he didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up either.

Depending on which survey you read, most of us undergo at least three career changes (yours truly had four) and hopefully we end up with a company and a position where we can flourish and progress.

And like many of you I have more than a few horror stories of past companies, like the one who occupied the 5th and 6th floors of an office building in New York City but mandated all employees with IT issues to call Tampa, Fla. for help despite its IT department being situated on floor number 5 in New York.

Or my past employer who eschewed raises and 401(k) matches, implemented semi-annual layoffs of entry and mid-level employees reportedly to strengthen its bottom line yet continued to hire a wave of 6-figure executives to populate an already overcrowded and largely ineffective C-suite.

But onward and upward.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Forget Plastics – it’s now “Accounting!”

“Ben, I want to say just one word to you… ‘Plastics.’”

For those of you like me old enough to remember the avuncular advice a young Dustin Hoffman received during the classic party scene in “The Graduate,” should they ever update that to reflect the 21st century zeitgeist, the one word would now be “accounting.”


According to recent studies, both enrollments in accounting programs and accounting hires at public firms reached all- time highs this year.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Forging a Point of Difference

Although our CPE offerings and articles traditionally center on succession and ownership transition issues, we recently veered a bit off our core topics and offered a 1-hour session on starting new client niches.

Actually it was the third webinar on launching new practice areas we’ve offered in as many years, so without going too far out on a limb, I’m guessing there has been a demand for it. And so nearly 400 attendees tuned in and hopefully listened attentively to what I had to say for an hour.

Because the reality of today’s marketplace, whether in accounting or any other segment, is forging a competitive point of difference between your business and the competition. Case in point, if Firm A offers tax and audit services and Firm B also offers both but also wealth management and consulting services as well, which firm do you think would be more enticing to potential clients looking to sign on with a CPA firm?

Ditto with regard to client retention. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Four More Years?

One of the great satirical magazines of all time – MAD- once spoofed then-President Nixon’s historic visit to China with a bubble quote over the former chief executive’s head thinking “I’ve got to do something to take the country’s mind off high unemployment, inflation, Vietnam...etc.”

Fast forward roughly 40 years or so and now Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, perhaps the only 2016 candidate that may yet be the subject of an FBI probe, similarly has to do something to revive her sagging poll numbers, and thus she has unveiled a $350 billion plan to make college more affordable and reducing the escalating amount of student debt.

Okay, with one daughter out of college and the other two years away from graduation, I won’t let her remarkable record of non-accomplishment first as a New York Senator and then later as Secretary of State cloud my judgment.

Each month I receive the invoices for student loan repayments, so of course, I’ll listen.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The 21st Century Hiring Process

This column is dedicated to those of us old enough to remember when a company’s Human Resources department was simply called “Personnel.”

The job-seeking process was relatively simple back then. You nervously walked into personnel, filled out the requisite job application form that was handed to you by some dour receptionist and then anxiously awaited by the phone in hopes someone would call you.

That by and large encompassed my initial job experience right out of college as I’m sure it did fort countless others, where I was grateful to come aboard somewhere for the eye-opening salary of $11,000 a year.

But that was then and this is now.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Green Mountain Serenity

Question: How many of you out there could survive an entire weekend in an area that had no cell phone service?

I mean no emails, no calls, no Facebook or LinkedIn. I know for a fact that within an hour, 75 percent of the members at my health club would be an inch or two away from taking hostages. These are people who check email or make calls while on the treadmill.

Welcome to the way of life in South Royalton, Vermont, a picturesque hamlet in the Green Mountain State that in order to get to, required a choice of driving either four or eight miles on unpaved roads fraught with rain-induced potholes and an occasional livestock meandering across your path.

It was there I spent last weekend.