Friday, February 26, 2016

You’d Think They’d Learn

Despite repeated warnings in the press and other media outlets, the phone scams threatening legal action to settle outstanding IRS debts continue to press onward.

The other day, I received one of these aforementioned robo-calls from someone obviously not sited on this continent warning me that if I didn’t respond to this final call to settle a $7,000 IRS debt, I could face prosecution and even jail time.

It should be noted that this was the third such call I’d gotten on such a matter since November. And apparently I wasn’t alone as several of my neighbors and a number of colleagues at the local gym had fielded similar phone threats.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Lesson from Stuart Anderson

Years ago as a resident of the Grand Canyon State (Arizona) I remember seeing a commercial touting a restaurant chain called Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus – a mid-priced concept specializing in yes, steak and also seafood.

The grizzled founder himself, Stuart Anderson, appeared in the 30-second spot, which like many similar promotions for restaurants, highlighted the restaurant’s signature plates and ended with him promising that “we’ll do the dishes.”

I thought about it for a while and then it struck me that every sit-down restaurant does the dishes, but the fact he promised that standard service, undoubtedly made an impression on the viewer. He (and I’m sure the creative agency behind the spot) made dishwashing a point of differentiation between his operation and others. At that period in time, chain restaurants proliferated throughout Arizona as well as much of the Southwest so the battle for “share of stomach” was fierce.

The same goes for CPA firms.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Big Brother Parking

As I understand it, there are roughly 5 million parking meters scattered throughout the U.S. and they range from those oft-broken devices that somehow manage to steal one out of every three quarters inserted, to the new devices that can be fed through various cloud applications and a credit card.

For someone who just recently installed WhatsApp on my phone, the technology now associated with the rather basic act of parking your car is beginning to give me the same degree of uneasiness as when I witnessed my first drone landing. I’ve since been privy to three more touchdowns, including one on a tennis court where I was engaged in a furious singles match, but that’s fodder for another tech-centric column.

I read an article recently where the privilege of paying for parking via a meter has been around since 1935. By my calculations, I probably could own or at least rent a beachfront house in the Hamptons for all the money I’ve tendered to these ominous iron monsters since I first received my license more years ago than I want to remember.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Mystery Shoppers

A number of years ago, a former colleague of mine was heard singing the repeated praises of his tax preparer.

When I asked him why the over the top endorsement - in a slightly off-key tenor I might add- he simply replied, “you should see the refund he got me.”


If you gauge a preparer’s competence on the amount of a refund, then yeah, I understand why he/she would hold a special place in a taxpayer’s heart. But I don’t think I need to explain that receiving a large refund does nothing to validate a preparer’s competence.

Recently, Bloomberg published a feature on how mystery “shoppers” have been visiting tax preparation offices across the country to judge the quality of their work and the results have been shall we say, eye-opening.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Little Engines that Could

I’ve always admired the entrepreneurial spirit – perhaps because it’s always eluded me. As a youngster, I had three start-up lemonade stands go bankrupt. Perhaps it’s because I opened them in early March, but I digress.

But recently, I encountered two examples of said entrepreneurship, one up close and personal, the other shared with some 120 million  others watching Super Bowl 50.

Last week, I took a short detour on my way home from a client appointment and treated myself to an oversized green tea at the local Starbucks. Even though it was mid-afternoon, the unit was bustling and true to form, all the comfortable lounge chairs were long occupied.

And as most of you know, once someone settles into a comfy chair at Starbucks and subsequently opens their laptop, it’s more akin to Kampgrounds of America in terms of waiting time. I’ve always contended that Starbucks and other coffee-related venues could double their revenues if they only billed by the hour.

So it was best to move on and look elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Guidance Counselors

I stumbled across a post on Facebook the other day which asked a number of arcane trivia questions such as can you name the last five winners of collegiate football’s Heisman Trophy or the last five recipients of the Academy Award for Best Actor/Actress.

I have to admit that I managed only a few correct answers. Despite being a lifelong sports fan, I could not tell you off the top of my head who took home the Heisman in 2010. Nor did I know who carted home an Oscar that same year.

Then the same post asked to name five people who had an impact on your life – in a positive way of course – and not surprisingly the answers came a lot easier. Sadly, those with a negative effect came equally fast – but that’s fodder for another column.

I bring this subject for today’s missive as I recently saw a study conducted by the Accountemps division of accounting and finance concern Robert Half on mentoring. Accountemps polled more than 2,000 financial professionals on mentoring of which 86 percent responded that having a mentor was important for career development.

Tell me something else I didn’t already know.

The accounting profession historically, has never forged a reputation for rapid adoption on anything. But over the past several years, I have noticed many of the mid-sized and larger firms have recognized how critical mentoring is to their younger employees with regard to recruiting and more importantly, retention.