Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Proactive vs. Reactive

Years ago during a high school football game, one of the defensive backs on our team inexplicably let an opposing receiver get behind him late in the game and snare a long touchdown pass that ultimately turned out to be the game winner.

On the bus ride home which more resembled a wake than anything else, the head coach sided up to the devastated player and calmly explained the difference to a sobbing 16-year old between being proactive as opposed to reactive.

He pointed out that several times during the game, the running backs on the other team always went in motion prior to their quarterback dropping back to pass and that should have served as a warning that a pass was coming. Instead, the player reacted instead of anticipated.

His lecture apparently paid dividends because the next week, the same defender who was victimized the week before intercepted three passes and returned one 70 yards for a touchdown.

I bring up this pigskin vignette of proactive vs. reactive because too often I see CPA firms react rather than anticipate. Take the area of recruiting for one – how many times have CPA firms waited until their respective staffing situation was dire before hanging out the “help wanted” sign?

Friday, September 25, 2015


For many, air travel is a necessary evil.

Some of my consulting colleagues and competitors have accumulated more frequent flier miles over the years than Air Force One. When the baggage handlers and airport taxi drivers call you by name you know that you perhaps spend more time in the air than on the ground.

And part and parcel of being a cloud warrior so to speak are nightmarish travel experiences that all you can do is laugh about it afterwards.

You’ve no doubt heard about planes sitting on the runway for up to 8 hours, or weather cancellations that have hundreds of weary travelers using the floor as their lodging for the evening.

I personally have intimate sleeping knowledge of the uncomfortable carpeting in both the Chicago and Detroit airports, while a weather delay in New York once transformed a routine flight to Tucson, Arizona, into a 14-hour, 4-airport odyssey.

And I consider myself one of the lucky ones. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why 2+2 Doesn’t Always Equal 4

In full disclosure, math was never my strongest subject.

I was lucky to spell “quadratic equation,” let along solve one. Perhaps though divine intervention, I somehow passed both geometry and trigonometry and after that, left any math elective course safely in my rear view mirror.

Like attempting to find a parking space in Manhattan, I just didn’t need the aggravation. Yet despite my struggles with one of the world’s exact sciences, I’m nimble enough with whole numbers to know when the math doesn’t add up – my checking account was a great teacher in that respect.

And often there’s a similar numeric discrepancy when it comes to a “merger of equals” among CPA firms. Once you take the trouble to go below the surface, it’s often anything but equal.

Case in point: Recently, a multi-partner firm in one of our Northeastern markets was mulling a merger with another firm roughly the same size. They also had entertained an overture from a far larger Top 100 firm that wanted to establish a footprint in our client’s backyard so to speak.

While the final decision still remains to be made, they are leaning toward the smaller firm as a merger partner – and in my opinion for all the wrong reasons.

Here’s why.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Graveyard of Change Resisters

This week I came across an article written by someone I’ve long respected and in fact, used to write for me on a semi-regular basis during my tenure as editor in chief at Accounting Today.

The piece focused on why some accounting firms, particularly smaller ones who, understandably, are comfortable with their current processes and workflow even though it may be outdated, and are resistant to adopting new technologies. And in addition, she writes, they’re often too busy and are happy with the way things are.

Now before I climb on any type of soapbox let me preface this by revealing that I do not own a Kindle, preferring paper books to any type of E-book and have two newspapers delivered daily. From 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. speaking or interacting with me is strictly prohibited while I’m enjoying my oversized cup of coffee and poring over the editorial and sports pages.

Yet I will always remember what one prescient IT staffer told me in the early-1990s, before nouns like Google, Netscape and Explorer became embedded in the mainstream lexicon.

“Those that do not run to technology will no doubt be the ones left behind.”

Friday, September 11, 2015

There’s No Way Around The 4Cs

I’m not adverse to someone labeling what we do as “matchmaking.” Although admittedly, the initial meeting between potential merger candidates most likely pales in comparison to the anticipation and excitement of a first date.

And whether you’re in merger mode or date mode, you hope for something to click. Because if it doesn’t, there’s no more uncomfortable feeling that I’m aware of than frequently checking your watch in hopes that it will mercifully end soon.

For something to work out, either romantically or in business, I would say unequivocally that of the 4 Cs (chemistry, culture, continuity and capacity) necessary for a successful union that chemistry is at the front of the line in terms of importance. In our CPE sessions we continually harp on the fact (some would say ad nauseum) that: “If you don’t want to have lunch with someone, don’t do a deal with them.”

The second is culture.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Conference Scam 101

As an owner of both a Target and Home Depot credit card you can imagine my degree of concern when the giant customer databases of both were hacked earlier this year.

My credit score is shaky enough without some cybercriminal charging a top of the line Weber Grill or a set of patio furniture to my accounts. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, dreading to open up the monthly statements of each.

Fortunately my accounts remained status quo. If they had suffered a breach I prayed it would be some understanding hacker who in a rare turn of kindness deleted all my balances.

But no such luck.