Dear George; A Lesson From The Past

In 2012 I left public accounting. Well, kind of.

We were launching our business and an opportunity presented itself to help a local sole practitioner (George) get through the October 15th deadline. No long term obligation and decent pay; sounded good, especially during a time where on paper, our personal finances should have never added up.

Almost 4 years later, and I’m still there. Depending on the time of year I go into the office 1-2 days per week. Sometimes my days are spent on turbo mode as I try to get 40+ hours of work done in 8. Some days, especially this time of year, I wonder why he keeps me around. The 8 hour days, which usually turn into 5 or 6, drag. There’s nothing to “do” and we spend more time chatting than anything else. Most times I find myself frustrated by it…why in the world is he willing to pay me to sit here without anything to do? On the surface, it makes zero business sense.

But I keep at it for more than one reason, the biggest being that it keeps me in the game. Since most of my days are spent building systems, procedures and software, it’s easy to lose sight of what happens when March 1st rolls around. This way, I get a weekly reminder of how tax prep works in the real world, and at the end of the day, that’s just as important for our business as developing marketing plans and making sales calls.

Last week I sat in on an EDD Audit with George. They were looking into employee vs. independent contractor issues. No surprise there. It was the same argument (from both sides of the table) we’ve all heard a million times. However, there was one thing that stood out to me. George knew practically EVERTYHING about the client he was representing. I’m not talking about when they incorporated or who the officers were. I mean EVERYTHING, like the history of how they started their business, the types of clients they served, what they used their line of credit for, the cars they drove, their favorite restaurants, the list goes on. And here’s the catch…it wouldn’t have mattered what client he was representing that day, it would have been the same no matter whose name was on that dreaded audit notice.

Why? Because, for him, after 55 years of public accounting, it’s more than the billable hours, more than the black and white productivity ratios. It’s about getting to know his clients, understanding their struggles and celebrating their successes. It’s about being their trusted advisor and it’s why he’s okay paying me to sit and chat on November 1st.

So, because I know I wouldn’t say it the right way in person, I thought I’d take the opportunity to say thanks now:

Dear George,

Thank you for giving me the chance to get to know you. As quirky and different as you might be, you always remain true to yourself. Thank you for teaching me the importance of slowing down; taking the time to truly get to know people. Sadly enough, it’s something I need to constantly remind myself to do in this crazy, fast world we live in. Thank you for being a great role model. Although there are many generations between us, you have always been receptive to my crazy “new school” ideas. I hope I can keep an open mind to the ways of new generations like you have for years to come. From day one, you’ve shown me nothing but respect and held my thoughts and opinions in high regard; thank you. I hope you feel the same. And last but not least, thanks for paying me to sit in your office on November 1st, even when there’s nothing to do.

Your staff, colleague and friend,