On June 26, 2012, the THRIVEal +CPA Network held our June community call. The title of the call was “In the Trenches.” The basic idea behind the call was how do we as firm owners or future firm owners, balance strategic long-term planning for our firms versus paying the bills, or as most THRIVEal members would say “buying groceries and diapers.” How do we balance building the firm that we want against building the firm that we must have right now in order to keep the firm’s lights on? This is a very important topic and one that has been chewed on many times by various THRIVEal members as we attempt to figure out how to build our “Firm of the Future.”
Choose your favorite writer
THRIVEal just wrapped up Software week and I think my brain is still hurting. We were able to see a demonstration of 8 different products in 5 days (May 14-18, 2012) and get a feel for the culture of each company. Each company has different strengths, weaknesses, target markets, and overall outlook on what accounting software should provide. I feel like I have more tools in my toolbelt to better blow my customer’s mind and match the software to their needs. It was an exciting week, to say the least!
“Do you run a small business? Do you have a pulse? If you answered yes to either of these, you may be the perfect client for us! We don’t even know your name, but we can definitely do whatever it is that you want us to do.”
While you may not have stooped to this level, most entrepreneurs are delighted to bring in new clients. It’s an exciting process because it means the business is growing and stands to make more money. The problem with this perspective (and we all intuitively know this) is that jumping into a relationship too fast can ruin its potential from the start.
Greg was born in Akron, Ohio, in the shadow of the Firestone tire factory. He began to swim competitively when he was eight, swimming for the Mountlake Terrace Lemmings. He graduated in 1995 from the University of Washington with a math degree. He chose math for the ladies. After serving ten-years as an 8th grade math teacher, he decided it was time for a career change, mainly because he “couldn’t stand those little bastards.” He began his accounting career with a local CPA firm in Orem, Utah, where he consistently failed the QuickBooks ProAdvisor advanced certification exam. Greg currently works as the Controller for the Utah Valley Physicians Plaza. He lives in Provo, Utah, with his wife and two kids. He enjoys eating maple bars, drinking Diet Pepsi, and swearing.
Seventeen seconds left in AUD. The last sentence of the second written communication task—the wording made sense, but it felt awkward. No time to think. Only time to react.
Back it up two hours…
I had to pee. I didn’t have to pee too bad, but it didn’t matter because when you’re taking the CPA exam, if you kind of have to pee, you can’t think about anything except the fact that you kind of have to pee. Makes it harder to recall a member’s requirements under SSARS to various stakeholders when reviewed financial statements are restated. I made the call. I took a potty break, but the clock stops for no bladder. The awkwardly situated testing center in the University of Utah student union building was directly adjacent to the women’s room. The men’s room was at the other end of a quarter-mile long hallway. (You’re right. I’m sure it was materially less than a quarter mile. Can you turn off the accountant brain for a minute?) I was pissed. (It’s a pun. You’re welcome.) I had too much pride to run; speed walking seemed like the more dignified choice. No paper towels, only an air dryer that was as effective as an asthmatic trying to whisper your hands dry. And despite the two wet hand prints on my butt, my mental faculties were back. But two hours later, I would desperately miss the four-and-a-half minutes I spent “billing my time” (not a widely accepted euphemism—yet).
Back it up to my sophomore year in high school. I had a job (doing the books for my mom’s drug store) and a car (a ’79 Chevy S-10 short bed three-on-the-tree pickup), and I was an emerging Diet Coke addict. Now, firmly within the talons of this disgusting habit, I’m drinking upwards of three Super Big Gulps per day. Fighting my dependency has proved futile. From time to time, I would work my way down to Caffeine Free Diet Coke, but the serenity prayer is no match for the brown bubbly (another euphemism not widely accepted—ever). Without my performance-enhancing beverage, I had no chance of keeping up with my demanding study regimen, let alone the test itself. In addition, I wanted to stay far away from the debilitating caffeine withdrawal headaches. If I had to choose between a caffeine withdrawal headache and passing a kidney stone, I’d choose FAR. I had no choice but to “juice up” right before each section of the exam, and 52 ounces of Diet Coke isn’t going to stay put for three-and-a-half hours.
Jump back to the final seconds of AUD. I changed the last sentence, my final keystroke barely beating the timer. I left the testing center crushed, confident that I failed. But somehow I passed (which cemented the idea in my mind that the CPA Exam is designed to strip prospective CPAs of their self-confidence. The profession demands high integrity and low self-esteem). The experience was horrible, and I never wanted to repeat it.
While recounting my story of near failure and pee pee to a coworker, she joked, “You probably wished you had some Depend® Undergarments.” Hells, yes! Why didn’t I think of that during BEC?!?
My last section was REG, and I went in saddled up on my Target-brand Depend® knockoffs. I felt more confident than a former astronaut driving cross-country to kidnap her rival in a love triangle. I probably could have made it through REG with no potty breaks, but you don’t pull a gun unless you intend on firing it, and you don’t go to REG in adult diapers unless you intend on using them. It’s harder to pee your pants than you probably remember.
John Emmerling said, “Innovation is creativity with a job to do,” or in this case, it’s creativity that I did my business in.
For THRIVEal members, the video recounting this delicious tale can be found in the private online Yammer community used by THRIVEal. There you will also find a picture of Greg in a diaper. Are you a member?
Every year, we see articles and surveys that indicate the need for CPA firms to attract and retain top talent—articles and surveys that express managing partners’ concern that there are not enough skilled potential employees in the labor pool. And one thing that firms say they are looking for is leadership skills. BS.
I will be the first to say that the accounting profession desperately needs leaders. My son, Grady, has BO. He’s seven. Twelve hours after a bath, he smells like a wrestling mat. He desperately needs something that’s strong enough for a [homeless] man, but made for a seven-year-old. But he’s afraid of my Speed Stick by Mennon. (You sang the “by Mennon” part in your head. I know. Me too.) He’s even more afraid of my Axe deodorant body spray. Arguably, my wife should be afraid of him using any Axe product because—according to commercials—it will turn Mrs. Taylor, his first grade teacher, into a skank. But Grady is afraid of where deodorant might take him. He’s afraid of change and afraid of the unknown.
Wow! What a great call!
In my opinion, the topic of knowledge sharing is undiscovered in the accounting industry. In the world of financial advisors and bankers, knowledge sharing is used as part of the culture. Why are we still all “grey suits” in this area? How effective is our cloud without knowledge sharing?