A turning point

Late last week, I made up my mind to contact the office lead partner at my old firm. It has been nearly five months since I was downsized but I had been hesitant about speaking to anyone still employed there.  I thought about email, even a handwritten letter. Then I remembered two important items:

  1. The lead partner always talked to me directly, never through email. I also prefer communication face-to-face.
  2. The managing partner emphasized that if you need to speak to someone of an important nature, make a phone call.

Just my luck, the office lead partner's cell phone number was at the top of my contacts list. I called him late in the afternoon, and he answered. I asked him whether he would have a chance to meet for lunch next week - my treat. Just my luck, he was available Monday, and we set the date.

I had not mentioned any of the topics I wanted to discuss. He agreed that just the two of us would meet, but I was a bit skeptical. Ever since the downsizing, I have been much more cautious about all things involving business.

Monday lunch arrived, and we showed up about the same time. It was just the two of us. The office lead partner was friendly, shook my hand and we were seated. After the waiter took our order, I did not hesitate. I told him that I had formed my own firm, and I had bid on a job that I had worked on previously while working for him.

What happened next can best be described as "pleasantly surprising." The office lead partner congratulated me for taking the leap. He said it took guts to go out on my own. It didn't matter whether I was starting from scratch or I had bought a book of business, he said. The conversation turned to peer review, and the office lead partner discussed his experience as a peer reviewer. He gave me advice on what to expect, what I should consider when documenting work on my audits, and to have all the necessary documentation in place because the initial peer review would be extremely stringent.

For the first time, the office lead partner was talking to me as a peer instead of an employee. It was a great feeling. He mentioned that he understood the call I made to him must have been difficult, but he was glad I made the call. The office lead partner told me that when he started out, the managing partner made it a point to those departing to stay in touch. The office lead partner has asked me to do the same, and he emphasized to contact him directly if I needed anything.

That evening I was mentally drained. I had not realized there was so much built-up stress and anticipation before the meeting. But the result of my lunch date with the former office lead partner was clear: I had reached a turning point in this infant venture as a sole practitioner. More than ever, I believe that continued success is within my grasp.

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Alan is a sole practitioner based in Central Ohio. He made a career change at 40 after working as a journalist for more than 15 years. Alan started his practice in May 2010 and currently focuses on not-for-profit organizations, individuals and small businesses. He has helped a number of nonprofits obtain their tax-exempt status and assisted others with their audit, compliance and tax needs. Alan has overcome many obstacles, and has spent the past 11 years primarily as an auditor. He also has worked on audits of financial institutions, closely-held businesses and began his second career as an ABL field examiner.

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