Posted by: LYF | February 12, 2011

Working faster will not get you ahead in public accounting

Here’s a scenario.  You’re a new CA who’s just started working for a medium size firm in Toronto.  You’ve been given your first file.  A small notice to reader with a few adjusting journal entries – amortization, tax, accounting accrual.  If you want to impress the higher ups, what do you do?

Finish the file in the amount of time your partner expects, with as few errors as possible.

The key here is the amount of time the partner expects. It takes a long time for people to really get this.  You won’t impress people in public accounting by being more efficient, what impresses people are fewer errors.

Imagine you get assigned two associated corps that are budgeted for 7 hours a piece Monday morning.  This means you should finish both files around Wednesday morning or early afternoon.  Lets say you’re a super star and finish them on Monday because you decided to work a little harder.  What are you going to do Tuesday?  You can either do nothing all day – which will make you look bad – or you can ask for more work.  Lets say you get another file, something short though because your scheduling partner didn’t expect you to finish so quickly.  Now you hand in all three files at various times on Tuesday.  Here’s where things are going to get bad.

Instead of clearing review notes for two files on Wednesday or Thursday, you’ll be clearing review notes on all three.  And this extra file won’t be taken into account when it comes to scheduling.  You’ll still have to do the files you were assigned for the rest of the week, even though you technically have more work to do now.  The faster you work the more you exacerbate this problem.

Also keep in mind that you will have a minimum billable hours target each week.  If you have files that are budgeted for 35 hours – a typical workweek – then what’s the point of finishing them all on Wednesday, only to have another 2 files assigned to you on Thursday?  Let me tell you right now.  It’s not worth the stress and it will hardly impress anyone.  You’ll just get a reputation for being a grinder.  “Oh I have this file that needs to be done, why don’t we get [grinder] to do it.”  You don’t want to be that guy.

Instead focus on the quality of your files.  Don’t worry too much about going over budget.  It’s not that big a deal and most of the time you’ll have a good reason.  For example – I’m a new employee, retained earnings was off, last year they had a better bookkeeper, the client was slow with information, I had computer problems, we should raise our fee etc.

I’m not saying being more efficient is bad.  It’s just that it won’t impress anyone.  The only benefit of being more efficient is the extra time you’ll have to chill on a file.  “Efficient” usually translates into less time figuring out what to do.  You’ll spend less time looking at your file thinking, “what the fuck is happening here/I have no idea what I’m doing” and more time actually getting work done.



  1. Great post, and i agree. You want to be efficient, but do not want to tell the whole world your done a file and chilling. I knew a few collegaues when i was junior who used to keep asking for more work. All i knew i went home at 6pm those days, and they did not. At the end of the day on the reviews i even did better on them , since somehow i was done by work “on time”.

  2. Great Post!
    This blog is such a good read and really informative. Thanks for sharing your insights about the profession and keep it up!

  3. I read your post religiously, thanks a lot!

  4. […] which is against company policy and unfair to the people who are “working.”  It also screws you over because you’ll end up juggling way too many files at […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: