When to Keep Some Plans to Yourself

Smiling woman meeting with man in officeLeave room to be surprised.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

Planning is a trait of most accountants, including me. Maybe that is one reason we become accountants. I always seemed to write out plans – for myself, partners, staff and sometimes personal activities.

MORE: The Art of the Deal: Starts with Listening | Fired from My First Job | Staffers Need to Speak Up with Clients | Bored by CPE? You’re Missing Out! | Clients Buy Solutions, Not Hours | Roger Is My Only Client | Blown Loan Covenants and How to Recover from Them | Beyond the Numbers: Be a Friend | Perception Becomes Reality
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One time I had a plan for a new staff person who became our tax manager and eventually ran our firm’s tax department.
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The Art of the Deal: Starts with Listening

Be all ears. Talk less. Listen more.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

A client wanted to buy a business in Birmingham, Ala., and I went there with the company’s CFO to review the books, do some due diligence, kick the tires and negotiate a deal.

MORE: Fired from My First Job | Employees Have Better Memories than Bosses | When Writeups Went Extinct | Kennedy’s Acceptance Speech | What Consulting Is | Mendlowitz: Why My Firm Merged with WS+B
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The business was on the cusp of super success, but they ran out of money and my client was going to buy the company, provide working capital and retain the owner to run the business.
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Fired from My First Job

What I learned the hard way. So you don't have to.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

My first job was with a sole practitioner friend of my father’s and lasted seven weeks.

MORE: Employees Have Better Memories than Bosses | Working for a Jerk | The ‘Wrong’ CPE | Be a Sounding Board to Your Clients | Make Obsessed Leadership Work for You | Client Checklist: Top 10 Issues for Real Estate Investors | Working Hard? Or Hardly Working?
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I was fired because I was terrible. I couldn't do anything right!

Here's what I've learned.
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Employees Have Better Memories than Bosses

Two businessmen talking across a deskWhat can forgetting cost you?

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

I was lucky to get my second job in accounting, but I received a salary that was $5 lower than my first job (which I had been fired from), so I took the job.

MORE: Working for a Jerk | Staffers Need to Speak Up with Clients | Bored by CPE? You’re Missing Out! | Clients Buy Solutions, Not Hours | Roger Is My Only Client | Blown Loan Covenants and How to Recover from Them
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I asked for $90 a week. My boss said he would give me the extra $10 in six months after seeing how I worked out, so my starting salary was $80 per week. Also, he said I did not have to work any overtime. If I did, they would pay me at straight time rates, but there was no overtime.
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Working for a Jerk

Invisible businessman saying "blah blah blah blah blah"What is more important to you, how you look or how good the work is?

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 monthly clients.

MORE: Staffers Need to Speak Up with Clients | When Writeups Went Extinct | Kennedy’s Acceptance Speech
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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.
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Staffers Need to Speak Up with Clients

Two women talking5 takeaways.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

I started my third job one year and seven months after I graduated college. I was hired as a “junior” but felt I was more experienced because I was doing “higher level” work at my previous job.

MORE: The Vanishing Writeup | The ‘Wrong’ CPE | Be a Sounding Board to Your Clients | Make Obsessed Leadership Work for You | Client Checklist: Top 10 Issues for Real Estate Investors | A CPA Looks Back Across the Generations
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The first week at my new job, I was sitting at a long table in the staff room with two other junior accountants, footing 50-page, 10-column schedules and similar work. I mean footing. This was January 1965 and we did not have calculators or adding machines. There was one Monroe calculator in the office, and if you wanted percentages you literally had to wait on line to get a turn using it.
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When Writeups Went Extinct

older man and younger man in meetingWhy it was so valuable and how to gain that knowledge now.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

Writeups are extinct. When I started in 1963, most small CPA firms primarily did writeups. After I started my practice in 1969, it became an embarrassment to say I did writeups. It connoted something beneath my “professional” status.

MORE: The ‘Wrong’ CPE | Bored by CPE? You’re Missing Out! | Clients Buy Solutions, Not Hours | Roger Is My Only Client | Top 10 Issues for Real Estate Investors | Working Hard? Or Hardly Working? | It’s Not Always about the Money | The Value in Value Consulting | A CPA Looks Back Across the Generations
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I think a problem today is that writeups no longer exist for younger staff.
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The ‘Wrong’ CPE

Businessman looking up answers in a bookDo you have 10 hours available this year?

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

In my previous article, I discussed mandatory CPE. Today I am writing about non-mandatory courses: those covering practice management.

MORE: Bored by CPE? You’re Missing Out! | Kennedy’s Acceptance Speech | What Consulting Is | Mendlowitz: Why My Firm Merged with WS+B | A Long Time Ago, at a CPA Firm Far, Far Away … | When Discounts Don’t Work
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I have a friend who sells trophies and goes to a trophy convention in Las Vegas each year. While there, she takes courses on how to make more money selling trophies, and each time she comes home with a couple of ideas that help her run her business better and make more money. Yet, CPAs do not do take these types of courses because they do not get CPE credit for them. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!
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Bored by CPE? You’re Missing Out!

Make the requirement work FOR you.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

CPAs are required to take continuing professional education courses each year. The amount varies by state, but every state has mandatory requirements.

MORE: Clients Buy Solutions, Not Hours | What Consulting Is | Mendlowitz: Why My Firm Merged with WS+B | A Long Time Ago, at a CPA Firm Far, Far Away … | When Discounts Don’t Work | Call Me Before You Do Anything | Learning to Delegate: Slow is Faster
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Some CPAs, like me, take courses and look for ideas to be able to serve clients better.
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Kennedy’s Acceptance Speech

John and Jackie Kennedy in car in Dallas
by Walt Cisco, Dallas Morning News (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

Selling by swaying.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

This is not about JFK.

MORE: Make Obsessed Leadership Work for You | Roger Is My Only Client | Blown Loan Covenants and How to Recover from Them | Beyond the Numbers: Be a Friend | Perception Becomes Reality
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When he was nominated at the 1960 Democratic Convention, his acceptance speech was preceded with an introduction by Chester Bowes narrating a film about Kennedy’s life and achievements.
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Be a Sounding Board to Your Clients

Are you ready to make lemonade?

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

Entrepreneurs are the brightest most focused and determined people I know. But it is also lonely for many of them.

MORE: Clients Buy Solutions, Not Hours | What Consulting Is | Mendlowitz: Why My Firm Merged with WS+B | A Long Time Ago, at a CPA Firm Far, Far Away … | When Discounts Don’t Work | Call Me Before You Do Anything
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There are few people they can trust, and sometimes they just need a sounding board of someone who won’t pass judgment but might point out inconsistencies or illogical conclusions. That is a role for CPAs, and sometimes great things come out of it.
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Clients Buy Solutions, Not Hours

Hand building word "solution" with letter blocksAre you providing the value they expect?

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

Pricing, billing and collecting fees for services are how accountants earn their livings.

MORE: What Consulting Is | Make Obsessed Leadership Work for You | Client Checklist: Top 10 Issues for Real Estate Investors | Working Hard? Or Hardly Working? | It’s Not Always about the Money
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One time, one of my fellow partners at WithumSmith+Brown, Peter Weitsen, billed a client for a lengthy phone call and a followup memo, and the client complained, saying that he did not realize he would have to pay for the work he did.  READ MORE →

What Consulting Is

Businesswoman in a meeting with a male colleague smiling at him as they sit at a table discussing paperwork over coffeeFirst you have to master the basics.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

There are three broad types of work CPAs do – financial reporting attestation and support, tax compliance and planning, and management advisory or consulting services.

MORE: Make Obsessed Leadership Work for You | Roger Is My Only Client | Blown Loan Covenants and How to Recover from Them | Beyond the Numbers: Be a Friend | Perception Becomes Reality | The Making of a Consultant
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The consulting part could be described as anything a CPA does that doesn’t fall into the first two categories. Good accountants use all their skills all the time, but consulting could be said to be actually applying all their skills to a specific problem to present possible solutions.
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