Art of Accounting: Working for a Putz

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IMGCAP(1)]Early on in my career, I was assigned to work with a manager on a half dozen monthly clients.

He went with me and worked on the main company while I worked alongside him on the baby company. The baby company was much smaller and usually was for a second line the client had. I did the write-up and prepared the financial and other statements for the current month and year to date.

The manager told me what to do, kept an eye on my progress and offered suggestions to speed me along. Occasionally when I finished the financial statement, he would point to a number and say that it looked wrong. I rechecked my work and corrected it. He was always right, and whenever I had an error he spotted it in a matter of seconds. I was awed by his intelligence and thought he was the smartest accountant there ever was.

After about a year he gave notice that he was leaving. He always refused to tell me how he spotted my errors so quickly, and since he was leaving I asked him to tell me how he did it. He said it was very simple—he scanned the monthly differences and compared them to the average for the year and when something was out of whack he figured it was wrong.

It sounded so simple and I asked him why he didn’t tell me sooner so I could have found the errors myself, saving us both time. He replied that if he did that, I would not think he was as smart as I thought he was. At that moment I realized that he was a “Putz.”

Also at that time, I resolved that when I was in a position of authority, my job would be to train the person I was supervising to have them do the best job possible, including how to check their work so I would not have to spend time I did not have to spend. I felt that if my subordinates did great work, felt great about themselves and were promoted, it didn’t matter whether they thought I was smart or not. It was the results that were important to 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 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,

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