Art of Accounting: My 200th column and what I learned from writing them

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I learned that ideas are not generated in a vacuum; they come from interactions. Besides clients and partners, my primary interactions are with other accountants who call me with their practice management questions.

I have been doing this a long time, so many of the calls bring up issues I’ve already written about, here and elsewhere. Notwithstanding that, each call has a slightly different take. That leads to interesting discussions, and many times I end the call learning more than the caller.

I feel I give generously of my time, and I get asked why I help competitors. I don’t see competitors—I see colleagues. I don’t see myself as giving away something, but as paying back those who helped me without any thought other than passing on some of their experience and knowledge to help a fellow professional. I also get insights about other people’s experience. That fuses into my database of knowledge and is easily accessed when similar issues arise in my practice or from callers.

I like the calls. I do like helping people, but I also welcome the confidence placed in me by many very successful people who manage large books of business and huge staffs, and run extremely successful practices. I noticed that most of the calls are from those who are doing very well, and very few calls from those with floundering practices. It might seem the opposite would be the situation, but I have found that successful people want to be more successful and do not mind reaching out to others for assistance while those not doing well look to blame others or “the situation” or “economy” or their “partners’ ineptitude” or their “lazy dumb staff,” never imagining they could be the cause of their lack of success.

This series of articles is written in the first person and is autobiographical in nature, sharing my experiences, although not every idea is mine. Where some of the ideas came from others I try to relate them to what I have done and provide takeaways. If I feel I cannot relate something to myself or readers in the style of these columns, I write it up for an article that Rick Telberg of CPA Trendlines posts, or I include it in a practice management speech or as part of my body of knowledge when I consult with a client or an accounting firm.

I can’t know everything, but by accepting calls from colleagues, I end up knowing more than I can from my own experiences, and that is one way I grow. So, while this is my 200th column here, it is not solely my product, but literally of thousands of other accountants. I am indebted to everyone who has called me for assistance. So, thank you and keep the calls coming.

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. 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) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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Practice management Consulting Ed Mendlowitz