[IMGCAP(1)]Over my four years working at the CPA and advisory firmBerdon LLP, my friends and family have often asked whether or not Iplan to someday apply to business school to earn an MBA.

Thisinquiry takes place so often, in fact, that I’ve spent a significantamount of time pondering what the advantages of matriculating onceagain might be.  Through my personal research and experience, I’ve cometo an odd, but clear conclusion.

I think I’m already in business school.

Fromwhat I understand, several leading schools, including the perenniallytop-ranked Harvard Business School, use a system called “The CaseMethod” to instruct their pupils. This methodology requires students tolearn the structure, business practices, and economic complexities of aparticular corporation and then use that knowledge to tackle a specificchallenge that the organization faces. The students meet in teams todiscuss the situation, available actions to be taken, and theconsequences of each alternative. After the matter in question isresolved, the scholars move on to a new company, with a fresh set ofcircumstances and complications.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was pretty much doing that already.

Sincethe day I started at Berdon LLP, I’ve been deployed from client toclient, industry to industry, and challenge to challenge. Whether it isevaluating the capital project budget of a major hotel chain, reviewingcontracts for a real estate client planning to purchase a piece ofproperty worth several hundred million dollars, contemplating the valueof providing incentives to potential donors to a nonprofit organizationor advising an advertising agency on tax strategy, I’ve seen and done alot in my first four years.

I’ve performed audits, reviewsand compilations of financial statements. I’ve prepared tax returns forindividuals, partnerships, corporations and nonprofit organizations.I’ve performed accounting, economic, and industry research and analyzeddocuments on major litigation cases where tens of millions of dollarshung in the balance of my findings. I’ve worked on real estate,hospitality, nonprofit, advertising, financial services, and unionclients, just to mention a few. 

For each one of thoseprojects, I teamed with contemporaries, managers and partners whoserved as sounding boards, advisors, and resources. Team members wereoften in different departments, which allowed us to use the specializedknowledge of those members with specific tax, forensic, or auditingbackgrounds to help better understand the issues at hand. Together weexplored the nuances of each quandary and collectively came up withproper courses of action tailored to the client’s needs.

Theseexperiences are valuable in their own right, but like the ideologybehind the case method professes, the cumulative benefit of learninghow to confront the conflicts of clients across industries anddisciplines builds a wealth of knowledge from which one can become abetter business advisor. The ability to compare and contrast currentissues with those you’ve already overcome allows you to give diverseand valuable perspectives that someone confined to one industry ordiscipline might not invoke.

You certainly don’t have to be in a classroom to be a student. Perhaps you don’t have to matriculate to be in business school.

MarcSmith is an audit senior at the New York City office of top 30 CPA andadvisory firm Berdon LLP. With the firm since 2005, Marc’s auditassignments have included a number of the metro area’s most prominentreal estate, hospitality, and nonprofit organizations.  


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