[IMGCAP(1)]I had lunch recently with a colleague who was surprised when I mentioned that I helped another accountant with a problem and “did not charge him.”

I know this colleague and he is a very nice person. He’s a sole practitioner and seems to like what he does, but he has always complained to me that he wasn’t growing and just kept doing the same things over and over again. He told me at the lunch that he would never help someone the way I did without charging for it.

I thought about this and realized that a great deal of my growth has come from helping others. First, I deem it a privilege to be able to give back to fellow professionals and look at it as payback for those who helped me. I consider myself to be successful and realize it did not happen without a lot of help from those that came before me. Also, while I help those who reach out to me, I find out about what they are doing and what issues they encounter that stump them. The discussion provides added insights about how other firms do business and interact with clients.

That is a big-time payback.

I think we need to recognize that we do not operate in a vacuum and the sharing of ideas, information and insights is a valuable way to benefit both parties. It adds to the strength of the profession.

If anyone thinks they do not need help from anyone else, they are misguided and myopic. I cannot see how they or their practice can grow.

There is another reason, and that has to do with cross-referrals. Interacting with other professionals gives you a look at their ability and areas of expertise, and vice versa. When the opportunity for a referral presents itself, I—and hopefully they—know where to send it.
It seems like my lunch friend never helped anyone, so he never got help and never grew. That is OK for him, but not for me.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is a partner in WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He has authored 20 books and has written hundreds of articles for business and professional journals and newsletters plus a Tax Loophole article for every issue of TaxHotline for 27 years. Ed also writes a blog twice a week that addresses issues his clients have at www.partners-network.com. He is the winner of the Lawler Award for the best article published during 2001 in the Journal of Accountancy. He has also taught in the MBA graduate program at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Tax Court. Ed welcomes practice management questions and he can be reached at WithumSmith+Brown, One Spring Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, (732) 964-9329, emendlowitz@withum.com.