[IMGCAP(1)]I was fortunate early on in my career that I had a boss who gave me responsibility to supervise. On some level I was not really instructed how to supervise, but was told I could use the new person to help me get my work done.

This column was precipitated by an email I received from the first person ever that I supervised. I had not spoken to him since working with him in 1968. He emailed me because he read one of my columns and just wanted to say hello. I remembered him and then I recalled how I got started training him—he was the first person I trained.

He was starting out in public accounting and he came with me to the clients. I normally spent three days a month at the first client we went to and figured if I used him to help me I could cut a day off of it for me. It would add a day in total, since we would spend four man days. My boss told me not to worry about the time, but to use him to help me. My boss told me I should save up questions and call him at the end of the day so he could report how it was going.

I shared a desk with my “assistant” at the client’s office. When we sat down I gave him something to do by pointing to what I wanted and showing him how it was done the previous month. He and I started working and this process was repeated all day long. At the end of the day we together completed what usually took me two days.

The next day I gave him more to do and did not watch him so closely. He was repeating processes he learned and did very well, as he did the first day. I could not prepare the financial statement until he completed what he was doing so I started hunting around for some extra things to do. One of the things I did each month was record transactions from the factor and then I reconciled the balances, but I never really understood what was going on with that. The numbers checked out and the journal entries I made and posted to the general ledger fit very well in the financial statement I prepared. I used the extra time to look further into the many pages of paperwork generated by the factor and resolved that I was going to understand everything in it.

At the end of the second day our work was complete. I uncovered some overcharges and overbillings by the factor that my boss used to generate a special assignment to review all the statements for the previous two years, and I had an “assistant” that I took with me to all my clients.

I found out that it was very easy to use the assistant. I told him what to do, watched him do it, spent minimal time talking or explaining what to do and reviewing it, and used the extra time to “learn” about everything the client was doing paperwork and accounting-wise. I don’t think I quite understood the training process and in some respect mimicked what my boss did with me getting me up to snuff, but I became a supervisor those two days.

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 www.CPATrendlines.com 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 www.partners-network.com. 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 emendlowitz@withum.com.