Going Concern Turns 13 Today, There Will Be Cake in the Break Room Later

a cat celebrating its 13th birthday

It was summer 2009 when this website came to be and it was a glorious time. Obama had been inaugurated earlier that year, the financial crisis was still very much top of mind for everyone including us, and I’d carved out a tiny bit of internet fame for photoshopping dollar bills coming out of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s naked ass. The idea behind this website at creation was “Gawker for accountants” (you kids remember Gawker, right?) to the extent the accounting profession lends itself to sarcastic headlines which it really doesn’t but we try our best anyway.

“Pfft, how is there even enough happening in accounting to justify an entire blog about it?” naysayers said. The naysayers were right. Honestly we should have listened to the naysayers. There really isn’t enough accounting news to justify this site existing at all. Alas here we are 13 years later. GO US.

The earliest post I’m able to find is titled Grant Thornton and the Antichrist and was published on June 19, 2009. Now astute readers might be checking their calendars and asking how our birthday is July 20 and yet our oldest post was published a month before. Well if it isn’t obvious: former KPMGer and founding editor Caleb Newquist backdated posts. Backdating workpapers? Bad. Backdating blog posts so a site isn’t bare when it’s formally launched? A-OK.

It’s rather mysterious that the New York office of Grant Thornton is located at 666 Third Ave. As I’m sure our more pious readers know, the significance of the 666 is commonly known as “The Number of the Beast“. We won’t get into any more specifics than that other than to mention that it is a pretty creepy-ass looking number.

Is G to the T run by a secret group of Al Pacino-esque figures that are working against the forces of good?

Maybe not but the otherwise boring-assness of that particular lobby is def working too hard to not be noticed…

As you can see, we really hit the ground running there with the hard-hitting investigative journalism.

Within our first year we cultivated an active comment section and carved a little space for ourselves as the watercooler of the profession, a place where accountants could speak openly about their struggles from behind the safety of anonymous avatars (assuming the overzealous managing editor who has better shit to do than babysit comment sections hadn’t banned them for using gamer words). Young accountants were eager to tip us off to the happenings at their firms, students and staff alike abused the [email protected] inbox with an endless flood of questions. Sometimes those people got answers, often they just got yelled at. From Accounting Career Conundrums: Disappointed Auditor’s Laziness Is Showing published October 9, 2013:

Something tells me that you are lazy. Perhaps it is the lack of complete sentences and pronouns in your writing. Maybe it was an uncompetent word choice. Or it could be the absence of an actual request for what you want advice on. [Ed. note: the original question ironically called every client “uncompetent”]

I could pull out my accounting career decoder ring to decipher what you are really asking. But I’d rather address the lazy factor, which is likely an underlying issue that stands in the way of you enjoying your career (and perhaps your entire life).

Being a staff auditor for six years indicates a lack of career progression. Aside from your subpar written communication skills, why aren’t you a supervisor or manager yet? Oftentimes people who lack ambition in career advancement do so because they are ambivalent about their career path. Why take on greater responsibilities if you don’t enjoy the basics?

You all must like tough love because the questions just kept coming. We’re in the process of organizing these ancient advice threads under Ask Going Concern so one day soon you’ll an easier time searching and reading 10-year-old advice written by assholes because that’s something you need in your life. You’re welcome.

Farewell emails forwarded to us from teams around the country became a cornerstone of our content machine, finally the wordy screeds of your departing coworkers were no longer limited to anyone CC’d but out there for everyone to read. Digging back in the archive this is the first farewell email I found, it’s a June 2010 post about a possible exodus at KPMG offices in NYC (fans of The Office might recognize its significance):

Allow me to leave you with a few words of inspiration on this most joyous day:

BLOOD ALONE MOVES THE WHEELS OF HISTORY!

Have you ever asked yourselves in an hour of meditation – which everyone finds during the day – how long we have been striving for greatness?

Not only the years we’ve been at war the war of work but from the moment as a child, when we realize the world could be conquered. It has been a lifetime struggle a never-ending fight, I say to you and you will understand that it is a privilege to fight. WE ARE WARRIORS! Accountants of New York City, I ask you once more rise and be worthy of this historical hour. No revolution is worth anything unless it can defend itself. Some people will tell you accountant is a bad word. They’ll conjure up images of used car dealers, and door to door charlatans. This is our duty to change their perception. I say, accountants of the world… unite. We must never acquiesce, for it is together… TOGETHER THAT WE PREVAIL. WE MUST NEVER CEDE CONTROL OF THE MOTHERLAND…

It’s been 12 years, anyone wanna guess where that person ended up? Government, probably. Of course no farewell email will ever top the PwC auditor who gave 10 reasons why Beyonce could kick Britney Spears’ ass between lambasting coworkers and partners at her soon-to-be former firm.

Our early compensation threads were legendary, though Reddit has taken up that crown these days. Which is good, less work for us and we can still steal the information and act like we discovered it. Thanks, r/accounting! There’s also Big 4 Transparency and Fishbowl picking up the comp slack (and doing a fantastic job can I say). As far as we’re concerned the more the merrier, openly sharing salary information keeps pressure on the firms to at least kinda try not to embarrass themselves because there’s nothing like the peer pressure of a stranger on Reddit laughing at you because you’re poor to push people to decline cheap offers.

We broke a couple stories over the years, too. Mostly mergers. CohnReznick, for example. Blackman Kallick/Plante Moran. And who can forget the drama surrounding Rothstein Kass and KPMG (who am I kidding, most of you reading this right now have no idea what I’m talking about). We threw the Rothstein/KPMG rumor out in February 2014 and by May the blessed union was official. A choice quote in response to Steve Kass trying to quell the merger rumors with a firmwide email: “If I could kick someone in the ball it will be him as my draft pick followed by the executive committee for being lying pieces of garbage.” Man this website used to be good.

The writer stable has changed some over the years. People come and people go, people think “how hard can it be to shit out 500 word blog posts about accounting?” and then wash out after a single post when they realize it does actually take a modicum of effort to be this mediocre. Wrote one aspiring Going Concern writer in 2014: “I wasn’t ready to post insightfully bitter articles every day. Sure, being shackled to public accounting’s demands is a challenge (chains I’ve finally cast off), but that isn’t the hardest part. It’s coming up with content. I had all kinds of complaints floating around in my head, but once I started writing them down I realized it was like using a broken carpet cleaner to clean the pet stains from my 11 year old dog who decided she’s too good to take her dumps outside: I was going over the same crap again and again.” Feels, bro, feels.

In 2012 we pitted a small group of potential freelancers against each other March Madness style and encouraged the audience to be as critical as possible when analyzing their submissions because Caleb and I wanted to be sure potential writers could handle a rabid group of burned out, sexually frustrated, overworked professionals constantly berating them. In the end, none of them made the cut.

For a time there we were shitting out putting out 10 posts a day and as you can imagine or already know, a good majority of those were shitposts — Grant Thornton’s motivational human centipede will always be a favorite of the robust shitpost genre. Look, do you have any idea how hard it is to even find accounting news much less write about it? Somehow there are 15,432 newsworthy things that have happened since 2009 anyway.

We reached out to some longtime Going Concern readers — the few who remain from the old days, that is — and asked if they would be willing to go on record with a short statement about what Going Concern means to them. Unsurprisingly few if any wanted to be associated with this website and at least one blocked me for asking. I did manage to wrangle this comment from GC’s longest-serving troll, Big4Veteran:

I owe my fame in this profession to GC. I’m just ten years I think I’ve accumulated over 200 Twitter followers.

And another friend of the site who has been reading us on the toilet since our glory days had this to say:

I’m blessed to have Going Concern in my life, if for no other reason then “when will we see this on Going Concern?” has been uttered in more than one meeting I have been in at work.

For all that’s changed around here over the years, our mission has remained the same: write assy headlines about things happening in the accounting profession. Oops I mean tell the truth about what’s happening in accounting. I’m not going to lie and say we had some grand vision about Going Concern as a beacon of truth in a sea of shiny recruiting brochures and Big 4 press releases, really we just thought huh, what if someone wrote about what’s happening in the profession in like a casual newsy way? So we did. And we’re still doing it, much to the chagrin of accounting firm communications departments that don’t respond to our emails in a prompt nor candid manner.

Perhaps now that we’re only five years away from adulthood we’ll think about growing up. Probably not. And much like aging rockstars everywhere, as long as people keep buying tickets we’ll keep having shows. Whether it’s your first day or your 4748th, thanks for swinging by. We really do appreciate it. I lied about the cake, there is no cake. Sorry. You’re used to disappointment, you’re an accountant who reads this website.

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Have something to add to this story? Give us a shout by email, Twitter, or text/call the tipline at 202-505-8885. As always, all tips are anonymous.

2 Comments

  1. What a great article, and a great website. This place has definitely helped me cope over the years with one of the biggest mistakes of my life (majoring in accounting). Well done, GC team. Well done.

    P.S. I was able to accumulate over 200 Twitter followers in 10 years despite being intermittently blocked on both Twitter and Discuss by GC, mostly for good reasons.

  2. I used to read this site before I was old and retired. Well at least I wasn’t this old. And I was still getting paid by somebody.

    Anyway, I still enjoy seeing what the kids are up to these days. Keep going. Thanks.

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