Art of Accounting: Completing Three Years

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When I started writing these columns three years ago, I felt I could do about 25 or 30 short articles with autobiographical reminiscences colleagues might benefit from. I also wanted to give insights to students and people entering the profession about what accountants in public practice do and how they interact with clients. This column completes three full years: 156 weekly columns. And the ideas keep flowing, so I really feel good about what I am doing, and I hope they help you.

The purposes of writing (or giving a speech) are manifold. It is to give back, repay those who helped me, teach, preach, inspire, share thoughts, provide information or clarity, elicit comments, start a dialogue, “invite” calls, entertain, feed my ego, motivate, develop a reputation, promote books, present a platform for paid speeches and get business. My initial reasons expanded, grew or evolved as colleagues started to read the columns and contact me.

Early on the columns were tagged “Art of Accounting,” which I felt was descriptive of what we do. Accounting is an art, not a science. While we use numbers and much of our deliverables are full of numbers that give appearances of exactitude, we know otherwise. We spend much of our interactions with clients consulting, coaching and providing management guidance—none of which follows a dollar sign. However, for clients who take our advice, what we do can add many dollars to their coffers while helping them feel more secure with their business, job or finances.

Before anything was published, I occasionally jotted down short vignettes of situations I was involved in that displayed the versatility of public accountants. I wrote them in a conversational style as a single paragraph of 300 or 400 words—the way I might have spoken. At some point when I had about a half dozen, I sent them to a number of editors asking if they were interested in a series similar to what I wrote. No one was—they did not like the style. One day I met Michael Cohn, the editor of the Accounting Today web edition, and asked him if he would take a look at them. He did but said he would have to edit them to conform better to his publication’s style. I asked him to show me what he meant. He did some light editing and added paragraph spacing, which I thought looked OK, so they were posted. Then I started searching for more ideas, and they kept coming and coming and are still coming.

Writing these columns is very fulfilling. What is also fulfilling are the emails and calls I get from readers thanking me and with comments, ideas and questions. I believe I have called everyone that had a question, but it is possible some got lost in my inbox and I might have inadvertently missed some—so contact me again. The calls are gratifying because I get feedback that show I am connecting with colleagues, but also because I get insights into what’s on their minds. It is a way of keeping in touch with what is happening across the country, and even globally as far away as Australia, where I seem to have a reasonable number of readers.

One last comment is that some of the things I write about occurred as much as 50 or more years ago. I’ve been around quite a while and my memory is still pretty sharp. When I write about these long ago things I do so with a relevant takeaway that can be applied today. Just because I did something 50 years ago doesn’t mean it is stale or old fashioned.

A few columns ago I posted a column about a Wall Street Journal article from 35 years ago about my firm. I believe all of those issues still apply today. We were ahead of the curve then and I was proud to show that. I also believe I am still ahead of the curve. My partners at Withum are at the cutting edge of what’s new—in technology and processes, and firm management, staff development and client service—and that keeps us fresh. This is evident to our colleagues and something I am also very proud of.

Also, my experiences took place in collaboration with staff, partners, colleagues and clients. These were not singular actions but involved many interactions. They all share credit for what I have relayed—but there are just too many to name.

Thank you for reading these columns. Keep the emails and calls coming and do not hesitate to reach out to me with your practice management concerns.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, published by and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition,” published by the AICPA. Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or

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