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This Former CPA Doesn't Need No Stuffed Shirts (Bring on the Tattoos)

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November 2, 2009

Dear Liz & folks,

You asked in a recent article about CPAs who have tattoos. Hence this little missive.

Incidentally, I don't do Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or any of that stuff. I've never even tried it, don't want to. It seems a poor substitute for one-on-one contact, and I've done more than OK all my life without it. I do social networking, or whatever it's called, just fine my way, and if I may say so have suffered absolutely no ill effects from any recession since 1990 when I started my first full-time solo venture. So I don't think the computer stuff is all it's cracked up to be. To me it's a cop-out, the lazy person's way of connecting.

Nor I ain't saying how old I am. Please feel free to make an educated guess...though you'll probably miss.

If I sound a little bit testy, I apologize - it isn't at you. Rather it is on account of having read the story of Mandy Allen's experience at work, where the stuffed shirts at her Big 4 firm made her bandage her one visible tattoo and forbade her to get another one. In her place I would tell those S.S.s what they could do with their ultimatums, get whatever tattoos I wanted to, and the bosses could jolly well fire me if they wanted and then scramble to find other talent desperate enough to put up with their bull. Talent doesn't grow on trees. Just ask any partner or firm owner. Better to take care of what you've got in hand. It's a 2-way street.

I've had the same kind of thing as Mandy's experience happen to me at a CPA firm where I was senior staff member. Not over tattoos, but over the fact that I didn't care to dress like a stereotypical CPA, hang out with "acceptable" companions, or carry a briefcase (mine was a duffel bag). And as for one horrible S.S. of a law firm where I was assistant controller, they tried to control everything I said, wore, did, and thought. I didn't have my tattoos yet then, but no matter, it was the attitude in general rather than the specifics that is the parallel here.

In both cases, in not so many words I told my bosses "screw you", went my own way, and did as I pleased. The law firm was a temporary assignment (thank God), but the CPA firm clawed to hire me back when I left for another job. I'm no genius, nor was I God's gift to the accounting profession...but peers and clients liked and trusted me, so did IRS personnel, and I drew my own conclusions from that. My employers' dicta and dire predictions were not borne out, so I set them aside in favor of what I observed. Then when I went out on my own, in a recession which gave rise to the pink slip I received in fall 1990, my fledgling business was an almost instant success. Not a coincidence nor an accident. Did anybody care about my tattoos then? Hell no. Surprise, surprise.

I have three, by the way. One on my left forearm, and one on each shoulder. I designed all of them. I've had them since my 20s. They are not large, and have very little color in them, most of which is faded anyway. But they are definitely there, and I don't care who sees them nor what anyone else thinks of them. The tattoos aren't a "statement" of any kind, but rather just something I wanted to do for me. So I did. And I firmly believe that the fact that they are not really on my radar screen has everything to do with the fact that if anyone else minds their being there, they hide it well enough to merit an Academy Award for acting prowess. The tattoos aren't a big deal to me, so they aren't a big deal to anyone else.

Several years ago I left the accounting profession, most likely forever, gradually over a period of a little more than two years. I still have my CPA license, but it is inactive. I left a six-figure income and sold a successful international consulting practice to make the change. I was so burned out it wasn't funny, and when my second career found me, it was like having the lock blasted off the cage I was in. The guy who was my lightning rod isn't a mentor...Michael is a technical genius and a man of multiple gifts, but he's a flake. Probably on account of biochemical imbalances, he has all the hallmarks of (undiagnosed) ADHD, a common ailment of highly intelligent men. He's not teacher material and he knows it. But no matter. Still he has believed in me from the first, thinks I walk on water, as I do him. We're a mutual admiration society, captain of each other's fan club. I look on him almost as a deliverer. I would care deeply for him for that if for no other reason. He continues to be an inspiration. To this day we are quite close.

I am now a full-time working electrician and electrical contractor, owner of a nearly three-year-old LLC. Again in a recession, it was profitable right out of the starting gate. I now have a state master's license, three trucks, one full-time employee and a pool of part-timers, and almost more work than we can handle. When long-term commercial construction comes back, we'll be hiring full-time crews. Nobody cares about my tattoos now, either. They just want their electrical equipment installed right and working right, they want someone who will return calls and show up, do good work and be easy to talk to. What's weirdest of all is that the inspectors who pass muster on my work actually refer customers to me. It really floors me that they do. But it happens time and time again.

I've always been more than a little bit irreverent, in any matter that does not concern God Himself. That trait tends to connect me with others in rare ways, it hardly alienates anyone at all. I wish more people would have enough genuine self-respect to do the same. It doesn't make life in general, and human relations in particular, more difficult; no, rather it's the contrary.

Apologies for having made such a speech. But I hope it helps shed some light on a subject that you are absolutely right, it's hard for folks to stick their necks out on. If I have helped even one person shed their inhibited shell, then I am thankful for that. I lead a blessed life, and I wish no less for anyone else in whatever their chosen walk of life.

Sincerely,
Catherine Nazarene
Managing Member, Little Sparkie Electric LLC, Mount Airy, Md.
www.littlesparkie.com


Comments (1)
That's fine to be a rebel if you don't care about working at the big 4. But if you want to become a partner in a big firm, with the related money and prestige, then I suggest you forego the tats. It's the first imprssion you are fighting, and because of that you may never get to prove that you are god's gift to the accounting profession. Tattoos are fine for an electrician, but don't look appealing on an accountant. Or have them placed where they are not visible when dressed in normal business attire.
Posted by Joeegcpa | Wednesday, November 04 2009 at 6:31PM ET
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