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Showing posts from March, 2009

private companies

Ah private companies, which means an easing of deadlines, incredulous accountants, incredulous accounting. There's also that struggle between 5:30-6:30 to accept the fact that you can actually leave at these times. Wait, I have to pay for my own dinners now. And traffic? Where did this come from. Going from 10-20 cars on the highway at night to bumper-to-bumper traffic? Wait, is that the sun setting and shining down on me while I'm driving? Haven't seen that thing in a while. Oh jeez, where did all these people in the gym come from? Transition time people, good times. For those of you still stuck in the rut that is busy season, I feel your pain, and hope it'll go back to normalcy soon.

getting better

Don't want to jinx myself, but I think I realized yesterday why I'm starting to get used to this job, and it's not just the stockholm syndrome and the recession. Okay, maybe those are the primary factors. But the funny thing about this field, is that the higher you advance within the firm, the less you audit. For instance, say I see an asset balance of a few million. Usually, it would mean choosing the significant balances, asking the client for invoices, making sure it matches the balances, verifying that it's been paid in certain instances, etc. etc. etc. On top of that, I'd have to foot the darn schedule. Now, all I need to do is say this: "This is what I'd like you to do"...walk him or her through it..and be done. It's a beautiful thing.

A partner once asked me three years ago if I liked it so far. After essentially saying no, I decided to turn the tables and ask him since I wanted to get off the hot seat. He said he tolerated it. Another manag…

scathing article on the big 4

Here's a scathing article on the big 4 and how they're thriving while their clients are failing. The author, Francine Mckenna, has been targeting the auditing firms for a while now. Sure, I bear down pretty heavily on the firms at times, but her article is about a more serious issue and takes it to a whole new level.
I really don't agree with her, and I genuinely do think the firms, or atleast the one I work for, do a good job at making sure that the financials are fairly presented. Sure, we can do more, but we're paid by our clients, and we only have a certain amount of time to work on each company's numbers. This precludes us from doing an extremely thorough job. The real problem here lies with GAAP and the FASB, they are the ones setting the rules. Sure, the big 4 play a role in helping set up the rules, but come on now. Comparing them to a mafia, seriously? Don't hate the cops, the robbers were just smart enough to get away from them with the resources they …

positive aspects of auditing

Okay,
so it looks like people are looking for positives in our field, since the negatives are usually heavily publicized. Here's a list, in no particular order:
a) You're rarely ever stuck in the same monotonous place..office space style
b) You work with people around your age range
c) You get to travel around the country, but not enough to be living out of suitcases for extended weeks
d) You get to work with so many different people and so many different personalities, that when you leave, you'll be like Dr. Phil at your next job. It'll take someone with a ridiculous personality to stress you out.
e) You get to manage a team within 2-3 years of graduating from college. There aren't many other places you can do this. No management book can teach you better than managing people yourself. Not Stephen Covey, not Jack Welch, or whatever the management guru seems to be.
e) Change, Change, Change. You're always shaken out of your comfort zone, be it a new client or location

contractors

There seems to be this small but growing trend of contractors who essentially take over the accounting functions of start-ups . They handle 2-3 clients a year and essentially do the accounting for them on a part-time basis. It's pretty interesting and is a great business opportunity. What if someone starts up a company w/ a bunch of cpas whose explicit job is to go out and account for companies and deal with auditors for a fee? I'm sure plenty of these firms exist, but I haven't come across some yet. Maybe the non big 4 audit firms experience this a lot more since they have smaller clients. These contractors that I'm dealing with express surprise at times that we're not doing their financials for them, since they've "never" done it at their other companies. Do non big 4 firms actually prepare the financials for these companies? Even post-enron, there are no independence issues? But going back to the business opportunity, this firm can hire accountants …

clients' perception

This article has been ragin' through forwards amidst big 4 employees across the nation...thought i'd link to it for those who haven't seen it yet...

http://www.examiner.com/x-3040-Minneapolis-Life-in-the-Cubicle-Examiner~y2009m3d10-PWC-Deloitte-EY-and-KPMG-Big-4-employees-modern-indentured-servants

A lot of it is sadly true. No real good comeback here, other than the fact that the author of the article is probably a fund accountant and really can't claim to be in a better position.
(Update: Dudley Dawson, the author of the linked column, noted in the comments section here that he wasn't a fund accountant. So he probably is in a better position. I take it back.)

change of pace

"Since 'busy season' seems to span about half or more of the year, how does the rest of the year look like? Do you get any slack time during the summer and use comp time or are the extra hours a gift to the company from the grateful employees?"

From what I've heard, prior to the implementation of sox 404, summers were pretty lax and casual. Since the inception of 404, a lot of work's done around the summer and fall periods. Then there's the 3/30, 6/30, 8/30 and 9/30 year-end clients that make you essentially work busy season hours if you get stuck on them. To put in a pictorial form, our work is somewhat like this... the double hump camel...starts off real high, and painful..tapers off a bit..and there's a bit of a bump in the fall.

tempers

Boy, do tempers fly when we're deep into busy season. People get tired of each other, stress levels are high, people yell for things that really minor in the scheme of things. Our proximity to each other for long periods of time obviously leads to chaos. Maybe we should be in cubes during busy season for our own sanity. And I love it when the client complains if they have to work past 6:30. Seriously? Will one-two days a month really stall your life? The fact that we tend to be so close to each other in age helps, since we do have common threads of communication. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but imagine people from different generations working in the same room for hours upon hours on a daily basis. Or maybe it will actually lead to more respect amongst team members, and thus lead to internalized tempers rather than externalized temper. Which is worse? No idea..I'm no psychologist.

severance package

Scary topic..but it crossed my mind after hearing about more layoffs. I've heard that the usual package involves a week for every year you work. And when you hit manager and beyond, it gets slightly better. Here's a quote from Francine Mckenna's blog retheauditors:"I’ve had meetings with two good friends in the last week, professionals who I’ve known for years, Senior Manager/Directors at Big 6 firms in the Chicago area, who were both cut during the holiday season. One seems to have received a good package, almost too good, because he’s getting organized but not feeling pushed. The other was unceremoniously cut with very little notice and not much severance. Proves the adage: You get what you negotiate…"
So it looks like it really varies. But the firms control the ball in this economy, so it'll be interesting to see if and how many layoffs occur post-busy season. Obviously a huge factor will be the voluntary attrition rate. If like last year, the attrition rat…