[IMGCAP(1)](As told to the Prophet, the Barefoot Accountant, by the Lords of Public Accounting, after many years of sweat, slavery and servitude at public accounting firms in the Valley of Tears of Hartford County, Connecticut)

I. Thou shalt always hire employees that show well.
Never hire nerdy-looking accountants. Always hire attractive personnel, even if they are not the best accountants in the world. People are superficial, including clients, and will judge you more by appearances than a few errors committed by a curvaceous staff member. In addition, good-looking employees are so much more pleasing to gawk at, since you’ll be spending most of your time in the office with them, when they are not out in the field being gawked at by your clients.

II. Thou shalt not pay thy employees by the hour.
Never pay them by the hour:  the over-time will kill you. Always pay them a salary so you can work them slavishly 80 hours per week during tax season without paying a shekel extra. Learn from the Pharoahs. Build your pyramid of success upon the sweat of slave labor.

III. Thou shalt always dangle a carrot to staff.
Always promise your employees the opportunity of partnership in order to pay them less and retain them longer. Of course, as most experienced staff have discovered only after many years of toil and thousands and thousands of hours of overtime without a dime to show for it, you can always find an excuse later not to deliver—or, at least, to delay—on your promises of partnership. As the most astute partners of public accounting firms have known and practiced for years with the dexterity of a politician promising the world to a gullible constituency, always discuss the far-off distant partnership opportunity in the most general terms, always hiding the sordid details, namely, that the aspiring staff member would be required to buy you out at a ridiculously exorbitant price, necessitating the mortgaging of his home, wife, and first born. And lest ye forget, promises cost nothing.

IV. Thou shalt always get a retainer.
If possible, try to get full payment up-front. If your clients are struggling paying taxes to keep their homes and stay out of jail, what makes you think they will pay you upon completion of your services? And even if your clients do pay you, it may be years before you recover all of the monies, well after you have been driven into bankruptcy because of your trickling cash flow. Consequently, never do any work on credit. Why work for the sake of working? Remember always, you’re doing it for the money, not for love. (If you want love, get a dog.) It is always better to have no work than a ton of work for which you will receive no payment. Get the moolah ASAP.

V. Thou shalt not quote a fixed rate.
Never quote a job for a fixed rate. Avoid committing yourself to a fixed fee—or, for that matter, to anything in life—unless there is absolutely no alternative; however, if you rack your brain or someone else's long enough, you are bound to find an alternative! If a client insists on a quotation—and only after you have run out of every known ruse employed by scoundrels since the beginning of time—give an “estimate,” allowing you to squirm out of that amount later and squeeze every remaining drop out of your client. Always remember that you are a professional, just like lawyers and doctors, who are experts in overcharging and gouging. Did you ever receive a fixed quotation for a triple bypass procedure? Take heed. Learn from the pros.

VI. Thou shalt not answer thy telephone. 
Clients call you so they won’t be charged for picking your brains. And no one enjoys being billed for telephone conversations: that’s why attorneys are despised by everyone, including their wives! Always have your receptionist screen your calls or hide behind voice mail, and if forced to return calls, pick the time when your clients are least likely to be available, e.g., at 7:00 AM in the morning. And end your message with the ever-effective deterrents, “I haven’t received your retainer yet” or "when can I expect you to drop off a check for your overdue balance?" That'll stop their persistent, annoying, and mooching calls for sure.

VII. Thou shalt charge as much as thou can.
Never compete on price. If you charge less than your competitors, your clients will think they are getting less. Clients believe that idiotic saying, “You get what you pay for” (I prefer the much wiser saying, "A fool and his money are soon parted"). So if you save them a ton of money, they will, of course, think they are getting less. Furthermore, when you get more money for your services, you will feel better, and your spouse will say nicer things about you and appreciate you much more at the end of the day. Frankly, isn't this ultimately why we work as slaves all day?

VIII. Thou shalt not jeopardize thy license to practice public accounting.
Never let a client con you into jeopardizing your license. Be vigilant for fraud when preparing tax returns and audit reports. Your clients won’t respect nor appreciate what you’ve done for them, even when you are carted off to jail. If they insist on being crooked, let them go to jail rather than you.

IX. Thou shalt not volunteer thy services.
Never volunteer to be the treasurer of an organization.  You'll end up working for free, and you won’t obtain any business from doing so, especially from the organization itself. In addition, if you attempt to straighten out the finances of the organization, you may generate bad press for yourself from the very members causing the mess from their repeated dippings into its till. Charity begins at home and at your public accounting firm. So never volunteer. Read my article, "1,001 Excuses to Give to Nonprofit Organizations Asking You to be their Treasurer" to weasel out of their repeated requests. And stop feeling like Mother Teresa of the Missionaries of Charity, unless you want to practice public accounting in Calcutta.

X. Thou shalt not pay for promises.
Don’t pay for any marketing services promising you fantastic results. Marketers (now more commonly referred to as "spammers") typically promise the world, guaranteeing everything but delivering nothing but a big bill, typically charged to your credit card or withdrawn directly out of your business checking account. That's their job! And that's why they make so much more money than CPAs! 

William Brighenti is a  CPA and Certified QuickBooks Advisor at Accountants CPA Hartford, LLC in Berlin, Conn. He can be reached at accountantscpahartfordllc@gmail.com or http://www.cpa-connecticut.com.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access