Friday, March 24, 2017

Critical meetings or just critical of meetings?

The late Milton Berle used to joke that a meeting is a thing that keeps minutes but loses hours.

In full disclosure, I’m not a fan of meetings – never have been, never will.

I’ve worked for several companies that were mired in a meeting culture. One former employer once held meetings to determine exactly when we would schedule meetings.

But that was not the worst of it.

Late one Friday afternoon, we received a group email for an emergency meeting scheduled for 6 pm. Amidst the moans and groans of fellow staffers and frantic calls home to postpone any weekend plans, the CEO entered room and declared that we actually weren’t having a meeting, he just wanted to see how quickly we could assemble in case we did need to have one.

Trust me I can’t make this stuff up.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Are You Ready For Retirement? Take the Quiz!

Since succession and transition comprises about 90 percent of what we do here, I came across a financial retirement quiz compiled by business cable network CNBC which posited 10 questions in an effort to gauge how knowledgeable folks are about the amount of money they’ll need once they call it quits for their careers.

With frightening regularity, there are myriad online and print articles which demonstrate how shockingly little many folks have put away for retirement – if any – and how unprepared they are for the reality of not receiving a regular paycheck.

I’m sure you’ve read about or sadly know someone who has nothing put away for the future. I once heard that more than 50 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for their post-working years. To put that dollar figure into perspective, it’s barely enough to rent a $400 a month apartment for two years.

For example, do you know how much money experts advise that you put away? Admittedly, I missed this one. Actually, it’s 10x your annual salary. Therefore, if you make $100,000 per year, you should in theory have a nest egg of $1 million.

Friday, March 17, 2017

They’re back at it again!

A few months back I regaled you with tales of routine “robo-calls” where someone posing as a representative from the IRS left repeated threatening messages that unless I coughed up X amount of money, I would be subject to arrest for failure to pay taxes.

Having covered the accounting profession for 12 years, I did learn this much – the IRS never calls you about a tax dispute, they send a registered letter.

So therefore, I was hardly surprised when I found an email in my spam folder last week warning me of a legal IRS action against yours truly. It looked legitimate right down to the familiar IRS icon. All I needed to supply them with was my Social Security and bank routing numbers and I would be free of any further harassment.

I’m still astonished how many people freely supply these scams with personal information despite repeated warnings. Too often you read about people (usually seniors) scammed out of thousands of dollars to these online predators.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The case for remaining relevant

In the mid-1980s I somehow lied my way into the sports department of the county newspaper where upon my first assignment – a regional playoff contest out on Long Island - I was instructed by the no-nonsense executive editor to sign out one of the papers Radio Shack TRS-80 portable computers to file my story remotely.

Without the slightest idea of what I was doing, I somehow figured out the modem and sent the story through.

I was reminded of this nerve-racking rookie reporter test because I saw last week that Radio Shack had filed for its second bankruptcy in less than two years – including the closing of nearly 200 locations. The brand, which opened its first store in 1921 in Boston selling ham radios and related equipment, had been bleeding about $200 million annually in its mobility division alone.

Sadly, Radio Shack had joined a dubious roster of companies that had failed to remain relevant in the 21st Century and were either on their way out or had officially soaped the windows and locked the doors. That list includes such once-proud stalwarts as Blockbuster Video, Polaroid and Kodak – companies that failed or were too slow to recognize the efforts of more progressive competitors in their space. Blockbuster for one arrogantly dismissed the challenge of a promising start-up called Netflix.

Need I say more?

That also applies to CPA firms. In each of my presentations during the year I usually focus a slide or two on the dangers of a failure to recognize a growing competition.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away

In the classic fish out of water comedy, “My Cousin Vinny,” Joe Pesci plays Vincent LaGuardia Gambini, a “dees and doze” lawyer from Brooklyn who defends two teens accused of murder in a backwater Alabama town.

When questioning the timeline of a witness who claimed to be cooking grits at the time he allegedly witnessed the getaway, Pesci’s character asks him whether they were instant grits and the back and forth goes something like this…

Witness: “No self-respecting Southerner cooks instant grits.”
Gambini: So, how is it that it takes you five minutes to cook your grits, when it takes the rest of the grit-eating world 20 minutes?”
Witness: (flustered) “I’m a fast cook I guess.”
Gambini: Are we to believe that grits cook faster in your kitchen than anyplace else? Perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove.”

As you might have expected, in his own ham-handed way he discredits the witness and eventually exonerates the defendants.

So what does this have to do with the accounting profession?

Glad you asked.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Basic training isn’t always so basic

There are always cringe worthy moments in life, when some unfortunate incident happens to someone else and you give thanks to a number of higher powers that it didn’t happen to you.

For example, how would you like to have changed places with the two partners from PwC who were too busy tweeting to notice they gave presenter Warren Beatty the wrong envelope for the Best Picture winner at last week’s Academy Awards?

Um, no thank you.

On a more relatable scale to most of us, how about when a friend or colleague regales you with tales of a disastrous travel experience which may include  hours of flight delays and missed connections?

Again, you can surely sympathize and no doubt some cringing ensues.

In the category of no one asked me but, I had such an experience earlier this week on a return flight from Bermuda to New York and in the process, have nurtured an online relationship between myself and the customer service reps at American Airlines.