Posted by: LYF | January 31, 2009

The Work

First off, congrats again to everyone who passed the cke.  It’s a hard exam and a lot of the questions don’t make sense.  And if you didn’t pass don’t worry.  It’s honestly not the end of the world – even though it may feel like it.  Use that emotion to discover what went wrong, so you can pass it in May.  As for everyone else let’s hope that this year’s busy season isn’t insane.

I’ve been at my current firm for a year and about 2 months ago I started senioring audits.  I plan, strategize and perform them.  Sometimes I co-senior them if the client is large enough.  I’ve noticed there comes a point in each audit where I’ve had to ask the client to do something they don’t want to.  This can be a journal entry, adopting a new internal control – it doesn’t really matter.  The long and the short of it is, I ask them to do something and they don’t want to do it.

Then people stall and become really uncooperative.  And it get’s worse if the budgets get over-run.  If there is already friction between you and a client, letting them know their bill is $X more only worsens the situation.

I was venting this to my dad and how I just wanted to do my work – i.e. actual accounting.  He told me that “this” was the work.  Strategizing so client’s can’t stall on you.  Setting budgets that take into account missing information.  Carefully selecting your tone when writing a management letter.  That was the actual “work” – the accounting stuff was just the foundation that allowed me to deal with it.  And I think he’s right.

Accounting knowledge is good, but it’s not helpful when you need to deal with difficult clients.   I’m just getting used to this and I’m not yet comfortable dealing with people who are easily 20 years my senior.  It’s uncomfortable telling a CFO who’s that much older that they’ve been accounting for something wrong.  Just thinking about these types of conversations stresses me out.

Accounting firms are businesses not just places where people apply rules.  It’s not that this isn’t obvious, but I didn’t respect the difference when I first started working.  Yeah GAAP is important but at the end of the day you’re trying to make money and you can’t lose sight of that – however I’m not saying at the expense of quality work.

On top of these two points – and keeping in mind this isn’t an exhaustive list – different partners want different things.  Getting the theory right is important, but so is understanding the nuances and style of each partner.  Just think of  two partners one who takes a “big picture” view of a file and one who reads every single working paper.  Their outlook impacts what your file will look like when you hand it in.

Good clients are hard to come by when you’re dealing with small businesses.  Not because small clients are naturally awful, but because most of them are relatively unsophisticated.  So it’s nice to deal with a good one now and then.  I’ve been auditing one of our good clients lately.  They have a good internal control environment, the staff are friendly and they give me cookies every morning – huge plus, the cookies more so than the former two.  But the best part about this client is how their awesomeness permeates through their company.  For instance, for bathroom reading the men’s room has the latest copy of Maxim, 2 Archie comics and a book on various tropical fish.  Just epic.

I also go this message on facebook about 30min ago from a good buddy, “In exactly 2 weeks to this moment we will be redefining the words drunk and ridiculous. Actually [LYF], you will be redefining the words shameful and obscene but who is really keeping track. In any case I am looking forward to seeing you boys, it has been way too long. I am personally going to start prepping my body this week. Hydration, hydration, hydration. The countdown begins now.”

So I guess this is “the work.”  Managing client relationships, finishing files on time, dealing with office conflict, email arguements etc; these are the things I’m going to have to get used to.  But I’m hoping there will be enough cookies, awesome bathroom reading and drunken trips to Vegas to make the process tolerable.



  1. I find the client interaction the toughest part as well. The technical side can be learned, but it seems like you can either deal with clients or you can’t.

    I really respect my managers and partners because essentially they’ve mastered both. Do you think dealing with clients can be learned? or is it sort of innate within individuals?

    How’s being a senior on audits? I heard it’s way more interesting than as a junior. You seemed to have moved up quickly. I don’t think people at our firm senior until they have 2 years experience on the job.

  2. Welcome to the life 🙂 There are several types of accountants out there: finders, grinders, minders… and very few are able to play the multitude of roles required to be a good partner. It takes keen intellect to become good at theory, but it takes business savvy and customer relation management skills later on to turn you into a revenue-generating center. Stay close to your managers and partners to pick up whatever tidbits you can.

  3. So true. Lately, it feels like I’ve been hustling at work trying to balance all this stuff.

  4. Excellent discussion of “the work” from the real estate agent’s point of view in the comments here:

    Check out the example of “McBloggert (14:02:25) “

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