Tuesday, January 30, 2018

No Excuses

During summer breaks in college, I held some interesting jobs. One year I sold season tickets for the-then New York Nets when they were part of the defunct American Basketball Association.

Another year I worked for a collection agency, calling delinquent customers to, well, pay up or face legal action. The latter taught me research skills and how to track people that would serve me well during my quarter-century as a journalist, while the former taught me the importance of being prepared to pitch a $1,000 ticket package. In other words, I had to know not only who I was talking to but a lot about the company I was pitching.

That is why today that my patience wears thin when I get cold-called about a pitch for a service or services which cannot possibly align with our company’s needs or on a personal level, my needs.

Years ago when I worked for a business newspaper that covered the restaurant industry a public relations person pitching a client actually asked and I quote, “so you guys like, um, write about restaurants?”


But more recently, a case in point, or more accurately, cases in point.

Friday, January 26, 2018

There oughta be a law!

I’ve often wondered why it is when your children graduate college and land a job, they still remain on your payroll. Or when they need something, say a new mobile phone they (wink, wink) promise they’ll pay you back.

That eerily echoes the time I lent my brother-in-law money (lots of it) to save his house and his business and who promised to pay me back as soon as he got back on his feet.

That was 1999. I have not seen a dollar since then. I’m sure that rings all-to-familiar with many of you.

So this past weekend my youngest and I took a trip to the local wireless carrier. For the past several years their new pricing plan now mandates that customers pay for the phone either outright or in monthly installments. So my daughter and I forged a contract, she would pay me the difference between my previous monthly statement and the new total.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Only Fools Rush In….

I always had a caveat when it came to attending out of town conventions – go to bed before midnight because nothing good rarely happens after that. That was particularly true in venues like Las Vegas, Miami or New Orleans where late-night trouble was easy to find – if you were so inclined to look.

In fact, in the category of “strange but true” convention tales, I was about one month into my first publishing job when I returned from an out of town meeting and learned that one of my former colleagues – a married woman with children, had literally run off with one of the conference speakers and never returned either to work or home.

That’s taking first impulses to the extreme.

The same cautionary measures can also be applied to mergers. It’s not uncommon for two parties to become smitten with each other after the first or second meetings. But after that, some common sense needs to come into focus.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

You could file this under the headline “in other news, water was found to be wet.”

A report came out this week announcing the winner of the “most unpopular company of 2017,” an award that lends new meaning to the word “dubious.”

To exactly no one’s surprise the company was Equifax, the consumer credit reporting agency that collects and aggregates information to nearly 1 billion customers and nearly 100 million businesses around the world.

Unless you’ve been on another planet, you probably know that Equifax suffered a massive data breach last year that affected some 145 million customers. And no, that’s not a typo - 145 million. That’s a lot of sensitive information circulating somewhere. You would think that a company of this size and scope would have had something resembling an impenetrable firewall, but apparently not.

In addition, the government watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fielded some 30,000 complaints about Equifax. I’m just guessing here but that probably didn’t do much to help their reviews on Yelp.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Are You Using the Right Bait?

In truth, I’ve never cared much for fishing. Having cast out my lines on riverbanks and various boating charters to much frustration, I can assure you I will never wind up on the cover of Field & Stream.

One time, a grizzled veteran of the sport subtly suggested my poor fortunes were the result of not using the right bait. Even a change in lures and night crawlers did little to improve the quantity of my catches. I did however manage to hook one of nature’s least attractive creatures – a horse shoe crab – which I had no regrets about immediately dumping back in the drink.

But I thought about the wrong bait analogy and strangely saw how it applied colloquially to CPA firms with regard to recruiting and retention.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

No Excuses

Despite the fact that the temperatures and wind chills were lower in greater New York area this weekend than either Fargo, North Dakota, or Minneapolis, I recited a brief prayer and turned the ignition key hoping my car would start.

Then, I drove over snow and ice encrusted roads (not to mention potholes large and deep enough to hide a small footlocker) and made a much needed trip to a strip mall for the week’s necessities.

I also noticed something I have not seen in a number of years – a free-standing phone booth. My daughters think I’m kidding when I tell them that it was my mobile phone growing up. Yes, I actually had to stand inside and deposit money before making a call.

I thought about that relic of communications past whilst I was speaking to a New York City practitioner who, in this day and age, did not have a website. I didn’t think anybody under the age of 80 would eschew the benefits of an online presence to promote their practice, but as I found out, this was by design.

Let me repeat that, he purposely did not have a website. I honestly did not know where to begin asking him about this mind-boggling strategy, but instead let it go in lieu of beginning a United Nations-length debate.

Now I’m not within three area codes of being proficient in IT matters but I can tell you that as a former journalist and someone who knows something about communications, there’s no excuse in 2018 not to have an online presence. And it doesn’t have to be expensive or showcase a lot of bells and whistles, but in truth provide the following:

1. Contain the basics about your firm – services, contact information, specialty credentials and even client testimonials.
2. A brief history of the practice, when it began and its growth through the years.
3. An easy channel to communicate – in addition to the obvious, phone number, email, also LinkedIn and even Facebook.
4. A library of resources – this could include aggregated content from other areas and news such as the new tax law changes or articles your or other members of your firm have written for professional journals.


And the good news is that there are a number of low-cost providers who can construct a basic framework for you.

Someone once told me that those who don’t embrace technology will be like the racehorse that can see the entire field because he’s behind. And in 2018, that’s surely a sucker’s bet.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Moving the goal posts

Welcome back and belated Happy New Year.

Here’s hoping you all enjoyed your holiday and now you have a month or so to not only prepare for another filing season, but digest all the new tax law changes so you can explain in layman’s terms to your clients what it means for them.

Believe it or not, in the midst of all this we still have a number of M&A deals awaiting closure. It sounds grossly counter-intuitive but just prior to tax season is sometimes the best time of the year to facilitate a merger. If you’re a seller firm it’s the one time of the year you see virtually all your clients in person and when you need all the resources you can muster.

Hence, it’s often a perfect time to set the wheels in motion for an efficient transition.

Unless of course you decide to move the proverbial goal posts.

And what I mean by that is to suddenly begin expanding your list of “must haves” prior to entertaining any merger meetings or discussions.

Case in point.