Friday, July 23, 2021

Suddenly, I’m popular again!


Who knew?

As the annual AICPA ENGAGE conference in Las Vegas inched closer to reality, suddenly I was in great demand. The confab, which was held virtually last year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, will once again play host to a live audience in lieu of session presentations and roundtable discussions on laptops.

And that meant the exhibitors had scoured the attendee list in hopes of luring potential sales prospects to their respective booths. And that includes yours truly.

Over the past two weeks, I have been invited to no less than three “preconference kick-off cocktail parties, four chances to win either an iPad or a set of Titleist golf clubs, countless bags of free “swag” and last, but not least, $100 off my registration fee.

And in full disclosure, it was a welcome, albeit slow return to normalcy. Getting an email barrage from conference vendors was routine pre-COVID, but over the last 18 months it was a more a relic of the past in dire need of burnishing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Don’t Be Useful, Be Necessary!


During my publishing days, company management once announced that it was reshuffling the editorial hierarchy and adding an editorial director who would oversee all the print and online accounting-centric products. To my delight, the CEO tapped yours truly to fill the newly created post and subsequently asked me if I would like to relinquish my editor-in-chief responsibilities at the flagship magazine and concentrate on the larger picture.

I thought about his offer for less than 10 seconds and responded with a resounding “No!” When I was asked why by my colleagues why I wanted to assume dual responsibility for both the answer was simple. Mid-management posts such as the newly minted edit director were not tied to one specific property and as experience taught me, those were always the first to be jettisoned in the case of layoffs. By additionally keeping my EIC post, I was directly responsible for the main publication and therefore, necessary.

Less than a year later, my fears of a permanent furlough were realized as there was once again a reorganization, and the edit director post was eliminated in favor of some byzantine C-suite lineup which resulted in the loss of five jobs. Had I not opted to fill both positions, I too would have found myself filing for unemployment insurance.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Restaurant S.O.S.


At Chez Carlino, Saturday is errand day. And this past Saturday was no different. From 10 am until 1 o’clock in the afternoon, I visited no less than five stores as well as my go-to car wash. Of course, true to form, it poured just hours later but my historically bad luck with weather and a fresh simonize is fodder for a future column.

To reward completion of my honey-do agenda I stopped at Burger King and ordered their newest signature item – the Impossible Whopper. And truth be told, for a plant-based item, it’s actually pretty good. But what caught my eye were the count-em’ three signs advertising for help. At $15 an hour and partial medical benefits, I thought it would be easy to entice high school students to don an apron and paper hat. By contrast, my first restaurant job paid $2.05 an hour with no benefits except a free meal.

The BK manager on duty bemoaned to me that he often must work the grill because he can’t hire enough people and put in overtime (unpaid) to complete his required daily paperwork. The truth is that COVID-19 has affected labor in a variety of sectors, but perhaps not one was hit harder than the restaurant industry.

A number of CPA firms who have a sizeable roster of clients in restaurants have revealed that many have not recovered from the pandemic. And when many have reopened, they cannot fill the required “pars” for employee headcounts. As a result, many firms lost thousands in annual billings.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

There’s No Pace Like Home (Sales)

For one of the few times in my life, I’m in great demand.

Well, in full disclosure, not me personally, but rather my address. There isn’t a week that goes by when at least three or four mailings from local real estate agents are not sardined in my mailbox. It has gotten to the point where they outnumber junk mail, or those barrages of eternal credit card offers advertising 0 percent interest for 24 months.  The real estate fliers usually begin with the typical sales bromides, “Thinking of selling? Call….” or “If, you’re ready to downsize, we’re here to help.”

Now as a couple who have been empty nesters for several years now, I can understand why we are viewed as prime sales leads. And post COVID, to label the housing demand in my neck of the woods as “off the charts” would be a severe understatement. A realtor I know revealed he has a stable of 105 buyers and an inventory of 14 homes. Let me reiterate that wildly unbalanced ratio for emphasis- 105:14. And trust me, he is not atypical.

There are now bidding wars for homes not seen for decades. Case in point, a good friend of ours recently put her home on the market and not only received the asking price the first day of showing, but the couple who are going to eventually buy the home offered her $65,000 OVER the listing. On the one day she hosted an open house, she received 33 visits. My niece and her husband listed their “starter home” and had 67 potential buyers vying to own their piece of America. Some desperate home buyers have even done the unthinkable – at least in my book – by purchasing a house and bypassing the traditional inspection process. To me that’s like buying a used car without taking it to a mechanic first.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Return of the Trade Show


Recently I read an article in Sports Illustrated that documented how the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles represented a quantum leap in technology, unveiling such radical concepts as EMS or electronic messaging system – the precursor to today’s email, as well as digital judging and scoring for various events.

This mind you followed the 1976 Games in Montreal, which was originally slated to cost $250 million but eventually carried a $1.4 billion price tag, a debt Canada was not able to discharge until 2006. Then four years later, the U.S. was one of 65 countries to boycott the Games in Moscow. Just months before the LA Games, Newsweek ran an article positing the uncomfortable question “Are the Games Dead?”

I bring up this bit of past history because for nearly a year, I held similar feelings about trade shows and conferences. For 18 months most of the large annual gatherings in the accounting space and countless other sectors were either being held virtually or canceled altogether. I was ready to write their respective epitaphs and do not let anyone, anywhere tell you that attending a conference via Zoom or Microsoft Teams is the same as sitting in a live lecture or conversing in person to a vendor.

It isn’t and never will be.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me


Some things just defy logic.

For example, why does Hawaii have interstate highways?

How did former New York Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon – a victim of not one, but TWO Ponzi schemes including the massive one perpetrated by Bernie Madoff which almost cost him the team, get appointed to the Financial Committee of Major League Baseball?

You get the idea.

Then can someone please explain to me how does a person sentenced to 24 years in prison for investor fraud and was complicit in one of the largest bankruptcies in the annals of American history, somehow get enough financial support to launch an investment venture?

Sounds absurd right?

But in the category of “you can’t make this stuff up,” Jeffrey Skilling the onetime CEO of Houston-based energy conglomerate Enron, has kicked off Veld LLC, described as a digital marketplace to sell packages of oil and gas production to investors. The entity promises to “lend a “technology edge” to oil and gas returns.

For those who were either too young to remember or living somewhere in the Himalayas in 2001, a bit of background on Mr. Skilling.

Friday, June 4, 2021

UBI: An Idea that Should be DOA!


Perhaps the nine scariest words ever uttered in the English language are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

In full disclosure, just writing that sentence made me uncomfortable as a burlap shirt in July.

The same august body that oversees the U.S. Post Office and the Department of Education to name two entities that would give Homer Simpson cause for concern, is now mulling the possibility of implementing UBI – universal basic income.

This is a program where Uncle Sam issues checks to all citizens in a pre-set amount regardless of employment status or actual need. In other words, if you possess a working pulse and an average body temperature of 98.6, then you would be eligible for this head-scratching largesse.

If one took it upon themselves to look up the meaning of wealth redistribution, I’m sure it would be accompanied by a diagram of universal basic income.

For those unfamiliar, this is not a new proposal spurred on by the pandemic.

Nope, this was floated by Silicon Valley magnates some years ago – possibly to provide much-needed camouflage from how many jobs would be lost via the roster AI products currently either in place or in development.