Friday, November 20, 2015

Matter Over Mind

This week I was privileged to co-present a two-credit CPE session on succession planning and how to value an accounting firm at a local conference comprised of primarily small firm attendees.

Ours was just one of several programs kicking off simultaneously after the morning break and as conference-goers began searching for their intended sessions, one elderly gentleman pointed to his schedule card and asked if he was in the right room.

No, I told him, mine was a session on transition and succession planning.  Alas, he had signed up for an audit update class, but as he departed down the hallway he felt compelled to unleash one zinger,  “Oh sure, you’re going to tell me how to work for someone else.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

You Want Internet With That?

The other day I was folding a mountain of overdue laundry and of course, the phone rang.

Caller ID identified it as one of the big cable TV and Internet providers in the tri-state area – but not the one I currently use.

Normally I let all sales or charitable donations calls go to voice mail and when the inbox gets too crammed, I host a deleting party. But for some reason my curiosity was piqued so I thought I would have some fun – at their expense of course, not mine.

But I’m always interested to hear their individual sales pitches – most of which I expect are scripted.

The sales rep for said cable concern was a pleasant young man – or at least he sounded young - and the purpose of the call was of course to get me to switch from my current subscription to their service – which he tried to let me know, was superior in both quality and price to what I was receiving now...

So the conversation went something like this between Jerry, the sales rep, and yours truly.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tell Me Something Else I Don’t Already Know

I read this week that a survey conducted by one of the state societies revealed that, while CPAs regularly advise clients on business matters, many of them score poorly with regard to possessing key business skills.

Much like the likeable police captain in the classic firm “Casablanca” who feigns shock when he “discovers” gambling at the local watering hole, I could have saved them the trouble of polling some 600 firms and told them that by and large, CPAs are some of the worst business people I’ve ever encountered.

And I’m not talking about general business skills such as leadership or communications; I’m talking about common sense. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Forget the 21st Century Cliché’s, Just Get Busy!

In the late 1960s, Alvin Toffler a former labor columnist for Forbes Magazine wrote a book that chronicled the earliest stages of a quantum shift in America as the country began to evolve from an industrial workforce to an information society.

“Future Shock” became required reading in a number of secondary schools (including mine) and it was, if I’m not mistaken, the first written work to coin the term “knowledge worker.”

Years later I had the privilege of sitting down with him in an interview where he explained that seismic shift in a way even I could understand.

As an example he compared shareholder ownership of both McDonald’s and Microsoft.

At the time I was a shareholder of McDonald’s and in one of my incredibly stupid financial decisions (and believe me that’s a long list) passed on buying Microsoft stock in the 1980s.

So as a result he had my full attention.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Paralysis by Analysis

In the late 1970s I briefly was employed by the now-defunct Jack LaLanne chain of health spas as a membership salesman.

In lieu of today’s designer gym wear, the required outfit for my position was black pants and a short-sleeved white top sans buttons – an ensemble that gave the appearance of being either a hospital orderly or a barber.

When pitching a prospective member, each office was equipped with a two-way speaker where Joan, the manager, would listen in to every sales presentation and if she felt it was going south, would quickly make a surprise appearance.

One day a decidedly overweight prospect came in and following the scripted speech I was required to give him, he turned to me and said, “Well let me think about it.”

Right on schedule, Joan came barreling into the office and bluntly told the man that “thinking about it” never whipped anyone into shape.

She lectured him and for the first time I heard someone employ the now common axiom of “paralysis by analysis,” a sleek sounding term for thinking about something so long that eventually no decision is ever made.

That philosophy of inaction by overthinking was about the only thing I took away from that job. I didn’t particularly like Joan or her Orwellian tactics with the in-office speaker and as it turned out, the chain was later hit with a number of lawsuits by consumers alleging “bait and switch” tactics with regard to membership levels and fees. As I recall it was eventually swallowed up by the Bally’s brand.

Fast forward to the 21st century.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Did They Really Claim That?

Even though it’s the first week in November, I’m skipping my annual tradition of procrastination when it comes to gathering receipts and related documentation for my 1040 filings. This year I’ve accumulated a host of receipts from charitable donations, which hopefully, will alleviate my tax burden come April.

Perhaps to lighten the mood of wearily preparing for another filing season, I saw an article from an expense management company that listed 10 craziest expenses of 2015 in hopes of getting them though their company auditors. It seems each year expense submissions become more exponentially bizarre and this year’s will certainly remain in step – if not go beyond what had been reported in the past.

How about a water treatment plant salesman that purchased a $400 shotgun for a good customer? I would hate to imagine what a poor customer would have received.  That deduction was actually approved. One however that was not was $17,000 for new automobile replacing one that was damaged by an employee for a tech consulting firm. The IT firm classified the deduction under the category of “employee stupidity.”

I’ll bet.