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Art of Accounting: Marc Rosenberg’s top game changers

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I was talking with Marc Rosenberg, one of the top CPA firm consultants, about some of his “secrets” for his success, and then I asked him for his “Top 10” game changers. Here they are in Marc’s words, in chronological order.

"My Top 16:

1. Joining army reserves. Did this at the brilliant urging of my best friends Jay and Barry. Joined in our junior year in college. Pain in the ass for six years of army meetings but in 1969 you know what the alternative was. Served as the Radar O’Reilly of my unit.

2. Meeting with a CPA. As a high school math whiz, it seemed to make sense to be a math major in college. I had NO clue what I would DO with a math major. I took my first math class in college, hated it and barely got a C. I was devastated! My girlfriend’s (later my wife of 50 years) mother was secretary to a CPA firm partner and she suggested I talk to her boss. I can’t remember what he told me or even what his name was, but he convinced me to switch majors to accounting. Wisest advice I ever got.

3. Statistics class in college. Taught me a critical thinking skill that most people lack: how to filter information one receives and tell whether there is sufficient data to believe what you see. Differentiating between fact and fiction. Invaluable in life and career.

4. Working part-time at a small local accounting firm while in college. Terrific exposure to the real world of performing accounting services for businesses. Gave me a leg up on my fellow accounting grads who packed groceries.

5. Marrying my wife. I need dozens of pages to explain the obvious. Having a life companion to love and to share life’s adventures can’t possibly be equaled. Her psychology background hugely impacts my consulting work, which at times makes me feel like a therapist.

6. First job upon graduation at E&Y. Learned how to practice as a CPA. Learned how businesses operate. Learned how to deal with clients. First exposure to organizational politics. Those four years were stepping stone #1 to my career.

7. Love of writing. Every career step I’ve had, I used my writing skills to differentiate me from co-workers and bosses. Never my primary focus, but writing has helped make me who I am.

8. Joining Mark Controls Corp. My second job after college and stepping stone #2. First-hand experience at how companies are managed and to think like an entrepreneur. Lifetime memories of traveling internationally broadened my view of the world.

9. Having children. Words can’t describe the joy.

10. Joining large local CPA firm (FERS). I was hired as their first-ever COO. Mentored by the firm’s founder, Irwin Friedman, who was ahead of his time for managing a CPA firm like a real business. My time here, stepping stone #3, launched my 25-year career of pursuing my passion — consulting to CPA firms.

11. Learning how to sell. To be a successful consultant, it’s not enough to be good at your trade. You need to get business, i.e., sell too. After 20 years of never selling anything, I trained myself to be proficient at selling and attract clients, year after year.

12. Forming my own consultancy. Did this at 46 after a 24-year apprenticeship. And I had to start paying for my son’s outrageously expensive college soon after hanging out my shingle. The success of my business is beyond anything I dreamed of.

13. Creating CPA firm roundtables. Consulting has always been my #1 activity, but I created complementary activities that had huge synergies. The first was to create three CPA firm roundtables in Chicago, each with 25 members. Keeps me on top of what firms are doing.

14. Creating national CPA industry survey. Twenty-two years ago, I needed benchmarking metrics for my consulting work, but found this lacking in the CPA industry. So, I created my own. My longtime colleague, Chris Frederiksen, suggested I name it The Rosenberg Survey.

15. Writing 16 books (and counting). The crowning achievement of my love affair with writing. I converted my consulting experience into proprietary, practical how-to books in every area of managing a CPA firm. To date, we’ve sold over $2 million worth of them.

16. Mentoring accounting majors. As a young college student, I had no one to advise me on a career in accounting. So, for the past five years, I have mentored accounting majors at three major Chicago universities, providing them with the mentor I never had.
Oh. My career isn’t over yet. And sorry for not being able to count to 10.”

Many of Marc’s game changers are similar to many other accountants and successful business people, but he also has a strong entrepreneurial and innovative spirit. He is also an exemplary role model. See which of these match your career and which you might try to emulate.

Marc Rosenberg is a nationally known consultant, author and speaker on CPA firm management, strategy and partner issues. President of his own Chicago-based consulting firm, The Rosenberg Associates, he is founder of the most authoritative annual survey of mid-sized CPA firm performance statistics in the country, The Rosenberg Survey. He has consulted with more than 1000 firms throughout his decades-long consulting career and is annually recognized by Accounting Today as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People. His website is https://rosenbergassoc.com/.

Do not hesitate to contact me at emendlowitz@withum.com with your practice management questions.

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 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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