Haze of Thunder

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Marium Parium

An Egyptian from Texas, living the CPA life, ex-liberal arts major, still writing bad poetry.

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6 Responses

  1. Avatar J_A says:

    I cannot praise this post enough. I sent it out to our General Comptroller.

    Two a-propos but unrelated comments:

    In my first job I was astonished how poorly the audit staff was treated, both by the audit firm, and by us, the customer. As an anecdote, they worked in our break room, but they were required to be out of there, and no papers or computers left behind, every lunch break. So they had to carry everything out and basically stand in the corridor until they were allowed back in. At that time I concluded that there could be no worse (office, white collar) job than auditor.

    The second comment is only tangentially related. Because the actual audit staff that comes and sits in your office are mostly juniors, and even the senior staff is not really senior, they are baffled by anything that is not a plain vanilla transaction, which puts an additional onus in the client to spend hours explaining over and over the same thing (*). This feeds into the disdain the client’s staff have for the audit team. “What a bunch of useless ninconpoos” is the median assessment. Having better trained, more experienced personnel in the front lines would make the relationship easier on the customer -and the auditor- and would greatly reduced the disdain the auditors are subjected to. Of course, having an experienced person in the team means: (a) paying for that senior personnel; and (b) the junior staff hanging around long enough to get the required exposure and experience. Neither seems it’s going to happen any time soon.

    (*) Case in point, in the same first job I mentioned, I had to religiously go to the break room every six months (we were audited twice a year) to explain the same transaction over and over: we had exported cargo to a buyer (on prepaid terms, because he was a new customer), cargo which was delivered by the shipping company to the wrong consignee, who decided to accept (and pay for) the merchandise delivered in error to him, while we delivered (again) to the original buyer his order free of charge. The auditors saw a transaction paid twice, and a transaction free of charge, and couldn’t make heads or tails. At the third time I asked in anger “Don’t you take notes? Can’t you look at the notes from the previous audit, or is that too much work?”Report

    • Avatar Miriam in reply to J_A says:

      I’ve been doing this for nine years and every year I have the same discussion with my staff – take notes, ask questions (from your seniors, managers, other staff, etc.), and make sure we didn’t already document it. Clients DO get frustrated when you ask for the same things over and over, but when they’re left hanging and don’t have an experienced person to help, or the experienced person isn’t as experienced on the client’s particular industry or business, it’s almost worthless.

      I’ve also had a similar experience with an audit room, but ours was a literal storage closet with an old table in it. The room was so small that we could barely fit three people in there, and the reception staff was constantly climbing around us to get things like paper towels, plastic ware for the break room, printer paper. It was a huge pain in the ass, and even though they had two larger conference rooms that could accommodate us we weren’t allowed to use them: one was for important management meetings, the other was reserved for other staff meetings (which was usually only a lunch meeting to gossip about people). And, of course, we couldn’t use the empty desks because they may have someone come in who needed them. It was a passive-aggressive way of telling us that they diidn’t want us there.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Miriam says:

        Yeah, back when I was an account manager, during client startups I would have a dest/cubicle on site to be the point person for my company. And as many of our clients were directed to use our product (logistics services – basically outsourcing to reduce insured overhead) by management that was far off, we were not wanted. I would often be told I could only eat in the breakroom, which I did not have a key to. Or if I needed to inspect my drivers on the loading dock, again, I did not have access to this location.

        But it quickly became apparent why they didn’t want me/us when hydrocodone would go missing but we had no ability to see that part of the bills of lading. By design.Report

  2. Avatar Philip H says:

    It’s not just in private sector much less CPA environments. Ever since Al Gore “reinvented” government, we feds have had to constantly fight the “do More With Less – and be more like a business” mantra. Which is malarkey on several levels, not the least of which is government has no profit related fiduciary responsibility that would drive us to be more efficient (which is the hallmark of doing more with less since that’s supposedly how you boost profits). even our ability to deliver our services effectively – which is what government is really all about – is seriously harmed with this mentality. And, because many government jobs are done by passionate people, they never really contemplate doing less, until they burn out, where upon they leave and aren’t replaced, necessitating the survivors pick up the pieces. Its getting worse too as the Baby Boomers who lead our organizations all retire, often with no succession plan in place so we have continuity of mission.

    What’s the solution? I have read a whole library worth of books and taken no small number of classes on rewarding, motivating and retaining employees and increasing work-life balance. I’ve tried hard to model the things that are important to me when I am in leadership roles (like taking all the paternity leave I was eligible for with each kid and actually using my annual leave through out the year). But its never enough.

    Perhaps Millennials, with their often decried (but really wise) “F*ck it all” mentality will save us. Perhaps not. Just know you are nowhere near alone in fighting this battle.Report

  3. Avatar Maribou says:

    Excellent post, thank you. I’ll be looking into that Maister book, as well.Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    That mentality will make clients see the firm as a vendor, to challenge the firm’s billings, and to continue to demand more for less.

    This has already happened for law firms. And it sucks. And its taproot is the soul-grinding regime of the billable hour as the means for quantifying the value of a professional’s service.

    Value billing offers the best pathways towards incentivizing excellence. If you’re the kind of CPA who does 1040s for individuals, your incentive is to get as many of them done as efficiently as possible. If you’re the kind of CPA who does audits, your incentive is to do them as thoroughly as possible, as fast as possible. Note that this assumes competence — and the more competent one is, the more value one can add by way of the service and thus the higher fee one can earn.

    If I get back into private law practice, I’m going to work hard to find a way to bill by value, by task, rather than by the hour.Report

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