I am an avid catalogue reader. Just recently I came across one, Practica, a catalogue for some rather amazing household products. There was a plastic container, the size of a small beach ball that contained a hard plastic 27-piece dinnerware set perfect for serving six people on a picnic.

And, there's the "rookie" chopsticks with a connected top and beveled flat tips with gripping serrations on the inside or how about the large stainless steel fork that can be used when cooking beef, pork, lamb, and poultry that shows the food's temperature on the handle? Of course, let's not forget the 23-inch shoehorn so you don't have to bend down when putting on shoes or boots.

What else have I found in catalogues? Well, there was a telephone with very large numbers that I bought for my mother-in-law to make it easier for her to make calls.

Actually, I don't just look for new useful products and ideas in catalogues. I also observe my surroundings. For instance, when visiting someone's home, I noticed the shelves in the bookcases each had two rows of books. One row in front and the second recessed in the back on an approximately built-up five-inch ledge on the same shelf. You were able to see the titles of all the books on both rows and it was a great space saver.

If you're having a hard time picturing the things that I am describing, don't worry. The purpose of this column is simply to suggest that you should be observing more.

One association of accounting firms, before many of its national or regional meetings, conducts a tour of one of a member firm's office. What a great idea!

I have visited a number of accounting firms and I have seen vast differences, the most obvious being the reception area. In the majority, you feel very welcome. They have comfortable seats, are well lit and quiet, and reading material is provided. It is professionally decorated and contains pictures on the wall related to the firm's specialty or specialties. Of course, conversely, there are those waiting areas that are nothing more than a seat next to a noisy receptionist's desk compressed against the front door.

My suggestion is to visit more accounting firms and observe their waiting areas, the conference room set-up, the filing systems, the cubicles, the computer network, etc. Ask staff members how they do things.

After all, we are creatures of habit and become quite comfortable doing things the same way over and over. Why not try looking at how others in the profession are handling matters?

By the way, anybody interested in buying an ice cube tray that makes ice slender enough to fit into a water bottle? Ask me. I know where to find them.


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