Art of Accounting: The Man Who Went on 'Maternity' Leave

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IMGCAP(1)]One time, one of my young and very bright staff people asked me in the beginning of June if he could take off the months of July and August so he could travel by car throughout the United States. After asking him to repeat this three times, I gulped and told him he could.

I figured that if I did not tell him he could, he would simply give notice and quit. I also figured that if he returned in September and applied for a job, I would rehire him. I also realized that we have women taking off at least two months at a time to have babies and nothing terrible happens. The world (as defined by my small accounting firm) survives and moves forward.

My partners and I rationalized that nothing dreadful would happen during this two-month vacation. So we willingly allowed the staff person to fulfill a bucket list item while he was still not married and able to afford the two-month loss of salary. It also worked out pretty well for us.

Because of the notice he gave us, we had time to plan. He was able to introduce another staff person to his regular clients, explain his two-month hiatus, and make sure the work would be covered during his absence. The other staff person joined us at the beginning of February. While he got busy doing tax returns, he also learned our systems.

This proves my belief that you do better hiring people out of school and training them in your systems. Of course you need structured systems that are easy to teach. Since we spent the time—during the heat of tax season—training the new staff person on our systems, he was able to step up after just five months and cover the work at our clients. My partners and I, along with our other staff, worked a little harder, but the substantial part of the work was done and we did not miss a beat advising our clients during the absence.

When the absent staff member returned, he took back most of his clients, but his substitute kept some of them. This worked well all around.

A takeaway is that having strong systems and processes makes it easier to train other people to pick up where their predecessor left off in a seamless manner. Training is an investment that pays great dividends, and this incident proved it.

P.S.: He is still with us—12 years after his “maternity” leave.

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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