Accounting 501: Be Nimble

By Bill Kennedy - The only time my father's employer changed was when his firm merged with another, whereas I have had several employers, including myself. I didn't plan it that way. In fact, I had every intention of staying with my first employer until I retired. But my generation was the one that coined the phrase negative growth, and so many things have happened in my career that I never expected:

  • International accounting firms laying off staff - It was the early 80's, before all of the mergers that turned the Big 8 into the Big 4.
  • Competent managers being counseled out - There was little room in the partnership, and it was either up or out.
  • Prosperous companies stumbling - During the job interview process, it never occurred to me to do a credit check on my employers. In hindsight, I should have.
  • Administration is an economy of scale - When two firms merge, the accounting department is one area where the new owners look for staff reductions.

As accountants, we have some advantages:

  • Transferrable skills - Allowing for regional and industry differences, accounting is pretty much the same the world over, if you keep up to date on your professional development.
  • Close to the truth - You know how well the business is doing. For example, when the owner of a company injected more personal funds to keep it going, I knew long before the other employees that we were in trouble.

Bottom line: be nimble. You have to be ready to change jobs at a moment's notice. Here is some of the hard won advice that I have received along the way.

  1. Update your resume - At least once a year, update your resume, ensure you can contact at least three references and think about what you would like to do if your job ended suddenly. This advice came from a manager who thought he had a secure position until he was told that there was no room for him in the partnership.
  2. Be business driven - If you are seen as being Administration, then you are expendable. If you are seen as being an integral part of Operations or Sales, then your position is much more secure. This advice came from a manager as our company was being reorganized from an independent unit into little more than a sales office.
  3. Specialize - I had a hard time convincing a computer consulting firm that I could go back to consulting after having been a corporate Controller. The advice the partner gave me was pick an industry or a software package, but you have to specialize.
  4. Constant learning - An interview question that lost me a job was, "What was your last professional development course?"
  5. Do the right thing - I have been following the Livent accounting fraud case. The accusation was that the owners, "Drabinsky and Gottlieb operated a kickback scheme with two Livent vendors which siphoned approximately $7 million (Cdn) from the company for their personal benefit". The defense has been trying to prove that the fraud was perpetrated by the company's accountants without the owners' knowledge. Even though there have been no allegations that the accountants made any substantial personal gain from this fraud, clearly their lives and careers have been affected.

I wish I knew how to handle the last point. What do you do if you suspect your employer is defrauding the company? There usually isn't a smoking gun. It's usually more a case of suspicions and trying to understand people's motives. Fraud and incompetence can look very similar in the heat of battle. Of course you should get out of there fast, but the reality is that it can be extraordinarily difficult to find another position quickly. Unless you've learned to be nimble, that is.

This blog

by Bill Kennedy, CA.IT, PMP - With over 25 years of accounting experience, Bill has a varied background in accounting management and accounting systems implementation, with a focus on the charitable sector. He is also an experienced volunteer board member and fundraiser.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.

42562

Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.

74821

Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

47531

Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

87298
Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.
19987

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".

54656

William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.

79366

Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.

24563

Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

63075

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

33951
Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
101156
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.
25255

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

51522
Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
27098
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.
31389

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.

98625

The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

32581

FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.

109493

Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.

59815

Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

38607
Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.
65565

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.

91435

AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

52528