Art of Accounting: I need this in Beirut by Thursday

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For much of my career, I have worked in small firms. For the past 12 years I have been a partner in WithumSmith+Brown, PC, the 26th largest firm in the U.S., but before then the largest firm I worked in was one that I founded with a partner in 1974 and left in 1988 when we had 50 people.

Whether I was employed or had my own firm I had to know how to do everything. I typed and bound financial statements, mailed them after weighing and then pasting the stamps on the envelope, answered the phone, arranged for a messenger service when needed, made sure we had coffee or soda in the office, ordered the stationery and leased the copy machine. I also typed the bills and made sure nothing left the office without one. I had to know how to do everything because when I started, it was just me. As the firm grew, I oversaw everything because it took me a while to “let go.”

One day I hired someone who had worked for a very large firm. When I told him to send the client the financial statement he looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. He said he didn’t know how to do it and that where he used to work if he needed something in Beirut by Thursday, he just told someone and it was done.

Small firm accountants do it all, not just the wide variety of services, but all the details of getting the job done, completed, sent out, and then paid for. Small firm owners and solos do it all. That makes them savvier about how a business is operated and gives them better insights to advise their clients on all aspects of their business. The more successful ones learn to let go, but they never forget where they came from.

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.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. 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) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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