Art of Accounting: Annual intern trip

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This is the third year for my “field trip” to Manhattan with a group of summer interns from Withum.

It was pretty similar to the previous two, but had a special bonus. We had a planned visit to the New York State Society of CPAs office for a tour of how the largest state society functions and supports the profession. When we arrived, Richard "Rick" Kravitz, the editor-in-chief of The CPA Journal, greeted us and brought us into a conference room where he led us in a discussion of our great profession. The six interns and one entry-level staff member responded to his questions of why they decided to enter public accounting and what they expected from a career in public accounting. Eight different colleges were represented (including my alma mater) and questions about the different functions of public accountants were enthusiastically explained by Rick.

Rick has a special interest in sustainability and the current issue of his magazine was the annual sustainability issue, which he distributed. He explained the opportunities for public accountants in auditing and attesting to sustainability issues while also helping the environment and reducing the risk of future problems and the resulting costs. This is a hot area, and most of the Fortune 500 companies issue sustainability or corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports that can be downloaded online. Rick also explained about CPA roles in cybersecurity consulting, risk management, forensic investigations, business valuations and other state-of-the-art services that accounting firms provide. He discussed the artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotic and data-mining tools accountants use, including drones for inventory verification. A lot of cool things are happening; tomorrow is now.

Also stopping by was J. Michael Kirkland, a past president of the Society and current president of the Accountants Club of America. Most of his career was in private accounting and he told our group that even if they decided they did not like public accounting, their experience would be invaluable since it was highly likely they would become involved in engaging and working with public accountants and they would be in a much better position to interact and evaluate their performance. I never thought of this and he was right on the mark.

We started our trip at Federal Hall where George Washington was inaugurated, just opposite the New York Stock Exchange. After visiting the Society, we walked to the beginning of Broadway and stopped by the bull statue but we chose not to wait on the long line to get a photo there. Lunch was at the historic Fraunces Tavern and we were joined by Michael Cohn, the editor-in-chief of AccountingToday.com, who also shared some accountant stories. Then we took the subway to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I conducted a tour, pointing out some selected objects of interest to accountants, including an accounting book page from 1343, the famous Van Gogh painting of “L’Arlésienne,” Madame Joseph-Michel Ginoux, with her account book, and a cuneiform balanced account tablet from 2039 B.C. (the first human writing and beginning of history were accounting records on Cuneiform tablets around 3400 B.C.). What we did not get to see was that the Rembrandt painting of Aristotle and the Bust of Homer that was just moved to a different gallery. I use that painting to describe the ROI (return on investment) from the record-setting price the Met paid for that painting in 1961. While we missed that, we were able to walk through the very cool Rock and Roll Instruments’ exhibition. The quick-paced, two-hour jaunt in the Met wasn’t close to seeing everything worth seeing, but we saw plenty. The Met is a world-class museum that defines world class and it is in our backyard — less than an hour and a half from our office.

The staff accompanying me with their schools were Thomas Applegate (Monmouth University), Kaley Bohling (Sacred Heart University), Fiorella Doglio (New Jersey Institute of Technology), Melissa Hertzberg (Lehigh University), Rebecca Kuderka (Kansas State University), Samantha Siu (Loyola University), and Brianna Walsh (Rider University). Thomas is a Staff 1; the others are interns in our East Brunswick office. I attended Baruch College.

It was a great day for me and I believe for our young staff and future leaders. I highly recommend similar trips since no matter where you live there has to be great museums and business centers nearby. Spend some “nonbillable” time with your staff — you will love it, and so will they.

Here is a link to my column about last year’s trip.
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, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” He also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com along with the Pay-Less-Tax Man blog for Bottom Line. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. 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) 743-4582 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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Mentoring Practice management Ed Mendlowitz WithumSmith+Brown NYSSCPA