By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting
Early on in my career, I was assigned to work with a manager on a half-dozen
He went with me and worked on the main company while I worked alongside
him on the baby company. The baby company was much smaller and
usually was for a second line the client had. I did the writeup and prepared
the financial and other statements for the current month and year to date.
The manager told me what to do, kept an eye on my progress and offered
suggestions to speed me along. Occasionally when I finished the financial statement,
he would point to a number and say that it looked wrong. I rechecked
my work and corrected it. He was always right, and whenever I had an error
he spotted it in a matter of seconds. I was awed by his intelligence and thought
he was the smartest accountant there ever was.
After about a year he gave notice that he was leaving. He always refused to
tell me how he spotted my errors so quickly, and because he was leaving I asked
him to tell me how he did it. He said it was very simple – he scanned the monthly
differences and compared them to the average for the year and when
something was out of whack he figured it was wrong.
It sounded so simple and I asked him why he didn’t tell me sooner so I
could have found the errors myself, saving us both time. He replied that if he
did that, I would not think he was as smart as I thought he was. At that moment
I realized that he was a “putz.”
Also at that time, I resolved that when I was in a position of authority, my
job would be to train the person I was supervising to have them do the best job
possible, including how to check their work so I would not have to spend time
I did not have to spend. I felt that if my subordinates did great work, felt great
about themselves and were promoted, it didn’t matter whether they thought I
was smart or not. It was the results that were important to me.