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Great Client Service Means Ignoring the Topless Model Posing Nearby

If you're a fan of accounting nostalgia, I recommend the semi-regular anecdotes from WithumSmith+Brown partner emeritus Ed Mendlowitz.

In case you're not familiar, he's the guy who gave Greg those accountant trading cards and wrote a thinly veiled dig at anyone who hasn't kept books by hand.

In his most recent musing, Ed shares a tale of concentration and client service and every sentence is a treasure:

I was working in a photographer’s studio on a table near the middle of the room doing my write-up. Just for your information, write-ups were done in ink. The transactions were written in journals, the cash accounts were reconciled, and summaries were posted to the general ledger. I then took off a trial balance and prepared a financial statement.

Some clients’ general ledgers had locks on them, and I carried a ledger key on my keychain. Everything was pretty routine, regardless of the client’s industry. All clients had cash receipts and disbursements, sales and payroll. Some had purchase journals, and with some we worked off the numerical copies of the sales invoices, which became the journal. In many cases we made journal entries. Of course each business had peculiarities, but after a while, these too became routine.

Details like these are enjoyable and even useful if you're interested in the history of accounting practices or one of those hipster accountants thinking about setting up a wonderfully ironic firm. 

Anyway, after whetting our appetites with lore of ledger keys, Ed returns to the matter at hand: exemplary client service and the lengths one must go to provide it:  

Sometime in the late morning a model showed up for test photos. When she came in, my client carried on a first meeting conversation with her, ignoring the fact that I was just a few feet away. He started to take some photos, and I naturally could hear everything that went on. After a little while he asked her if she brought a bikini and if she could go in the dressing room and put it on. When she returned I had a decision to make—should I look up to see what was going on, or just continue with my work like nothing was happening.

I decided that if I looked up—even for a second—it might create a distraction that would upset the client, so I decided to ignore what was happening. In the course of the shoot, he asked her to remove the top, and then do some turns and jumping. I could hear everything even today like it was yesterday, but I never looked up and never stopped my work, not even for a second.

When she left, I looked at my work that I thought I was concentrating on, but actually every word and every number I entered was wrong—and it was in ink!!!

Although advances in accounting technology now make errors like this rare, it's still a good reminder that client service decorum still demands your concentration, despite your surroundings.

Art of Accounting: Write-ups and Concentration [AT]