I suck donk at taxes. I take too long. It’s because I try to clean everything up and tie everything out. What the hell kind of upside-down world is this where other accountants condescend to me because I’m too much of a perfectionist? It’s like fat people turning on you because you like donuts.
I thought we were all supposed to be perfectionists. The kids who grew up to be CPAs were the ones who got beat up on the playground for correcting the cool kid. He’d say, “Nice Toughskins, lamewad.” And we’d be like, “They’re not Toughskins, they’re Wranglers, husky Wranglers.” And the next day he’d be like, “Nice bruise, loser.” And we’d say, “It’s a contusion, not a bruise.” Vicious cycle. You remember.
But I got into this profession because of my attention to detail and because I’m great with numbers. And I get it. My Zoloft-quality OCD-level attention to detail can be a liability. Because of it I am often the willing victim of “scope creep.” (I am never the willing victim of Cavity Creeps.) Scope creep is when you perform duties beyond those for which you were hired. You hire me for a tax return, and I not only prepare your tax return, I also clean up your entire QuickBooks file. Boom. Scope creep. Going above and beyond is great customer service. Unless you also try to charge your customer above and beyond the agreed-upon price. Then you’re just being a donk.
As a profession, we’re supposed to be great with numbers. That’s what we do. We’re the Incredible Hulk of business data, just instead of anger being the trigger for super strength, we’re consistently good with numbers and generally keep our emotions repressed. And just like Superman loses his super powers around Kryptonite and the Hulk (presumably) loses his strength when given nitrous oxide, there’s something that makes CPAs as stupid as a graduate of Devry University.
My daughter is a talker. Always has been. Never stops. And she’s smart. Great with people. But then we went to Disneyland and discovered her Kryptonite: Ariel’s Grotto, “Character Dining.” Throughout your meal, Disney princesses visit your table. It’s a magical place where little girls can feel like princesses and their Dads also feel like princesses. While waiting to be visited by Mulan, I asked her what question she wanted to ask. (I tried to get her to ask Mulan about the mistreatment of underage workers in China’s booming manufacturing sector. She decided to ask if she had a boyfriend.) But when Mulan came to our table, she turned my daughter stupid. Her eyes got as big as toilet seats, she got this cheek-cramping grin on her face, and she couldn’t say anything—not even ask any questions about underage workers or boyfriends. Between Mulan and Aurora (that’s Sleeping Beauty, dumbass) she snapped back. But every princess gave my genius offspring a Belleobotomy. Something eerily similar happens to us as CPAs.
About half way through my first tax season, I was told that the partners at my firm didn’t want to give me any tax work because I was too slow. Ridiculous! Right? Did you even pick up on what happened? Minimize the spreadsheet and focus! I was a salaried employee. I had surplus capacity. The firm had excess work. But they didn’t want to use me because I was slow. They would rather pay me to do nothing than pay me to do something in a less-than-optimally-efficient manner. That’s like firing up your 1972 AMC Gremlin and then leaving it idling in the driveway because you don’t want to be seen driving a 1972 AMC Gremlin.
The partners in my firm lost their super powers and were turned stupid by the billable hour. Billing by the hour is accountant Kryptonite. It makes an otherwise intelligent CPA firm partner as stupid as a monkey that knows sign language: the monkey thinks it’s pretty smart because it knows sign language, but it’s still just a @!&%ING MONKEY!
We are smarter than that. We created and perfected highly precise cost accounting methods, yet we refuse to use anything more sophisticated than hours-times-semi-arbitrary-rate for all of our internal calculations. As a profession, we need to pull our head out of our tax hole and abandon timesheets and billable hours. Yeah, billing by the hour is really simple. But beyond that, it sucks at every level. A better way exists. And even partners hate filling out their timesheets. Mostly because it sucks donk.
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.