Tuesday, February 26, 2019

They Have to Want to Be Helped First

Growing up I had a neighbor, Lou, who could have been the poster child for the evils of bodily abuse. He smoked at least two packs of filter less cigarettes a day and by the 11 o’clock news had conservatively gone through nearly a fifth of bourbon on a nightly basis. The only exercise he performed was walking to and from his car to buy the abovementioned vices. I won’t even begin to guess as to his diet.

Looking back, it was sort of a medical miracle that he lasted until 62 when his heart, lungs and liver collectively surrendered.

Afterwards I asked my father why he never even attempted to stop, or at least reduce his tobacco and alcohol intake and he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “Someone has to want to be helped first.”

Lou obviously did not.

I often encounter that kind of apathy – albeit business-related as opposed to physical – when speaking to CPA firms who continue to roll merrily along literally without a care in the world about succession planning or do something so absurd as to wonder how they ever passed one of the most difficult professional exams currently administered.

Friday, February 22, 2019

What Do You Want to Do When You Grow Up?

My last missive in this space dealt with the often, painstaking process of interviewing job candidates. Yes, sometimes I have felt root canal would be a preferable option to sitting across the table from a total stranger preparing for the eventual weeding out process.

But just last week one of my daughter’s friends dropped by the house for a brief visit. She had been an accounting major in college and had worked briefly as a bookkeeper for a small financial firm but was now interviewing for a job at one of the major audit firms in the tri-state area.

She had done well enough during the first series of sit-downs to earn an audience with one of the senior partners – specifically the one who would be her ultimate boss should she be hired.

She recounted how the partner glanced at her resume’ and notes from her other interviews, kicked back in his chair and asked her point blank:

“So, what do you want to do when you grow up?”

Friday, February 15, 2019

Hiring Hell

The other day I was having lunch with a former colleague who, after years as a “foot soldier” so to speak, was suddenly thrust into a management post. True, he received the requisite bump in salary, but what he didn’t count on was all the ancillary duties a supervisor position entails.

So, in between the appetizer and the main course, he began to tell me of all the new responsibilities tossed in his proverbial lap and the one he disliked most was…. he didn’t get to finish the sentence because I finished it for him – interviewing job candidates.

For three decades it was the bane of my existence as well. Whenever someone tendered their notice of resignation, I was not so much disappointed in their leaving as I was dreading the prospect of bringing in numbers of potential hires for an interview.

To put it plainly, I would rather volunteer for jury duty than pose the standard questions to each hopeful. Nevertheless, I will boast a bit and say that I did register some spectacular hires, the last three who have been with my former company for an aggregate 45 years.

No applause necessary.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

“Let Me Think About It”

For a brief period during a misspent youth, I was employed by a long-defunct chain of gyms called European Health Spas. My job was two-fold – one to help the members design suitable exercise programs and the other – to sell as many multi-year (and often inescapable) member contracts as possible.

For that I was outfitted in black pants and a white short-sleeved lab coat reminiscent of a barber. And in full disclosure I was terrible. With no formal sales training my soft-selling skills were basically non-existent. At that point in my life I would have had trouble peddling air conditioners in Phoenix.

But we did have one superb sales person – a woman who, in contrast to myself, could sell blocks of ice in Anchorage. Stunningly attractive with a silky voice that had male members of all ages swooning like lovesick kittens, she not only broke the existing membership sales record for the entire company, but later became one of the most successful real estate agents in the state.

Her technique was quite simple. Whenever a prospect was on the fence about signing and tried to leave with a “let me think about it” parting line, she sat him or her down in her office, closed the door and glared at them like a school principal would a repeat truant.

“I’ve been in this business a long time and never once has ‘thinking about it’ ever gotten anyone into shape.” 

More often than not she closed the deal. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Just Expense It- Not!

As many of you draw closer that three-month ordeal known as filing season, I like to take this opportunity to bring a somewhat lighter note before CPAs and EAs across the country begin routinely logging 70-80-hour weeks.

And that is highlighting the most “creative” expenses that employees attempt to push through their accounts payable departments.

This has been an annual undertaking for me ever since one of my former employers immediately dismissed a woman for attempting to legitimize a fur coat on an expense report.

Trust me I can’t make that up.

And to think I was once flagged by a company auditor with a sense of humor surpassed only by an undertaker, for an $8 bottle of cold medicine when I once fell ill during a conference in Chicago.

But on to the topic de jour.

AppZen, a vendor of expense management software has compiled a recent report gleaned from over 1,000 businesses across all fields stating that companies are now more closely auditing employee expense report claims and are becoming increasingly diligent in rejecting some of the more nebulous charges.