Although my Nihongo is limited to about a half-dozen phrases including "May I please get my check?" last week I had the unique experience of being interviewed by an editor at Syriez, a Japanese accounting magazine, who wanted to know about trends and events in the profession in America.

Aside from her impressive English (in sharp contrast to my feeble Japanese), what made me stand up and take notice was just how closely accountants in that country observed the events unfolding upon American soil.

Among other things, she told me her readership wanted to know about were: the fast-growing "niches," what to look for in buying or merging with another firm, and what qualities does someone need in an accounting leadership role?

Other topics of interest to accountants in Japan included firm staffing, the hourly vs. value billing debate, selling consulting services to audit clients and the controversial 150-hour rule.

Wow! It was obvious she did her homework.

Despite being separated by several thousand miles of ocean and anywhere from eight to 14 hours in time zones, it became obvious that Japan and the United States share similar concerns with regard to the evolution of the profession.

Then, not unexpectedly, she asked about Enron and what I thought the impact that would have on the profession.

In a ridiculously abridged response to what probably needed roughly three days to answer, I explained that in light of the new government oversight and the fallout of widespread corporate accounting scandals, 2003 will probably be one of the most defining years in the history of the profession.

But what about for the smaller firms?

Well, I explained there’s been a lot of talk, while some would say ‘panic’ about a cascade effect. (When talking to someone from another country I, like most people I tend to raise my voice about several hundred decibels and use hand gestures, so I won’t attempt to describe my impression of a ‘cascade’). But I predicted the profession most likely won’t begin to feel the fallout (if any) for at least a year.

In 90 minutes, we covered a lot of ground and afterwards, exchanged mutual arigatos. I half-jokingly inquired about a possible trip to Tokyo to speak about American accounting to a larger audience.

Tokyo? Hmm, that may require more paperwork than Sarbanes-Oxley or a GAO report to get that approved by the accounts payable department.

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