Art of Accounting: My Job History
IMGCAP(1)]If you have been reading these Art of Accounting articles, you probably know some of my early work history, but I will reiterate it here and complete it.
My first job was with a sole practitioner friend of my father’s and lasted seven weeks. I was fired because I was terrible. I could not do anything right!
In the couple of weeks I was looking for a job, I tried to analyze why I was so bad, since I was expecting to be a hotshot accountant. It turns out that I did everything wrong because I did not listen to the instructions, rushed through my work and did not look at my finished product. I felt I was much better than how I performed and resolved that if I righted my wrongs and was still so bad, then perhaps accounting wasn’t for me.
My second job was with a two-partner firm that had a junior accountant every year or two, and a secretary. They knew how to explain what they wanted done, and I made sure I fully understood what I had to do. I also worked super slow and rechecked and rechecked everything I did. As a result, I did great work and really enjoyed the job. I explained previously why I left—it was over money.
My third job was with a five-partner, 20-staff firm with four clerical people. I did great there. I loved the job and environment, but left because of a lousy raise. That firm, which is still in business today and is now a Top 100 firm, had a policy at that time to give everyone a $5 raise every six months—July 1 and January 1. I started at $100 a week and after about six months was given the $5 raise. I was doing a higher-level job than I was hired at, and wanted a raise to $125 (from $105) and not their customary $5 raise. About three weeks before raise time, I spoke to my boss and explained this to him and tried to justify why they should make an exception to their policy in my case. When I received the $5 raise, I gave notice and quit!
I called around and a senior I worked with recommended me to a friend who had just started a firm and needed a junior. My starting salary was $125. However, I was still hired as a junior! My fourth job in two and a half years and I was still a junior. This might be the reason I did not give titles to anyone under a manager level when I had my own practice. Note: in those days you were considered a junior accountant until you had at least three years’ experience and then became a semi-senior for three to four years. Afterwards you became a senior for three to five years then becoming a manager with about twelve years under your belt.
I was the third accountant they hired. One of the staff was a high-level person that came with them when they started their practice and was slated to become a partner when the firm grew appropriately. The other one was someone with about five years’ experience. I was the junior.
After being with them a little over a year and a half, I had to take time off to serve five months’ active duty with the National Guard. I returned in January 1967 and was there until the end of 1967, when the firm split into three pieces. At that time the firm grew to about 15 staff. I went with one of the partners as his first employee and stayed with him until I left to start my own practice in July 1969.
In August 1970, my practice, which now had a couple of staff, was merged into a friend’s practice, and we were a total of 12 people. I was there through Dec. 31, 1973, when Sy Siegel and I left our third partner. Siegel & Mendlowitz started on Jan. 1, 1974, with free rent from an attorney, Richard C. Stein, in our building whom we did not know, but we responded to his ad to rent space. When we heard the rent amount, we must have grimaced. He said that if we could not afford that, then he would help us out and give us a free room to share at no charge until we got on our feet. FYI, we started Siegel & Mendlowitz with each of us putting $500 in a bank account. We had no staff and weren’t entirely sure we would be able to make a living, but the timing was right since it was the beginning of tax season. My wife typed our bills and I typed [terribly] any financial statements we needed. We worked our asses off!
Sy actually became a full-time salesman and worked the streets knocking on every door he could find. As luck would have it, he knocked on the right doors, said the right things, insisted on upfront retainers or payment, and we did very well. In May we hired a part-time typist and in August our first staff person. We also started paying rent. We finished the year with a full-time secretary (recommended by that part-timer we had), but because we let go of the staff person (not because of money), it was just the three of us.
We started 1975 by hiring an entry-level staff person recommended by one of the new attorneys who worked for Dick. We grew very quickly, and before the end of the year we added Paul Rich with the understanding that if he worked out, he would become a partner at the end of a year, which he did.
In 1983 we changed the name to Siegel Mendlowitz & Rich, PC and grew to 50 people, with only the three of us as partners. I left to form MendlowitzWeitsen, LLP with Peter Weitsen on July 1, 1988. In 2002 Frank R. Boutillette became a partner, and on Jan. 1, 2005 we merged with WithumSmith+Brown, PC, where we are today.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.