Quite a bit of publicity recently about how unhappy attorneys are at practicing law. But how many CPAs in public accounting would really like to do something else, too?
Over the years our profession has lost many fine people because their firm wouldn’t let them work flex-time, let them talk to clients, give them different projects that would grow them, simple lack of appreciation and lack of meaningful work. I know; I interviewed over 200 former CPAs for my course, “64 Ways to Motivate and Keep Your Best People.”
One thing that attorneys do right – that we don’t – that allows firms to keep more of its people is something called “pro bono” work. That’s Latin meaning “for the good of”. Many law firms give dozens, if not hundreds of hours a year to local and national organizations – and I’m not talking about the local bar association, but charities.
Pro bono is also accounting-ese for “are you out of your mind?”
How many hours does your firm give to those in need? Right – I thought so.
CPAs are some of the greediest people I know. Not that attorneys and doctors and other professionals aren’t. Except they tend to donate time and money to help people.
Recently got a call from a CPA across the state who saw that I was featured on a website as a CPA provider and wondered how it was working. He wouldn’t be a competitor; he’s hundreds of miles away. So I told him: although I had picked up some good clients, a lot of inquiries were from people in trouble with the IRS. These kinds of clients tend to require a lot of time, and are often strapped for cash.
“Doesn’t sound like it’s for us,” he said. Of course not.
CPAs make more money today on average than anyone would have dreamed of when I became one in 1976. The average CPA today lives very, very comfortably. Many send their kids to private expensive schools, have second homes and are flush. This prosperity, I believe, has made them even greedier (case in point, the late Arthur Andersen).
It is greed – pure and simple – that lies at the heart of many of our professions problems: lack of funds to do marketing right, refusal to pay staff what they are worth, less than desirable working environments, no pro bono work, and pressure to bill, bill, bill – for full realization or pay the piper on your evaluation.
It’s greed, pure and simple, that is the cancer in our business.