Dear Loyal Former Employee (or if you must, Formerly Loyal Employee):
I apologize for taking so long to send you this letter. I realize you left the firm at the end of last fiscal year, but I’ve simply been swamped—the new fiscal year, my summer vacation, that real estate dustup, the ugliness with regulators, the holidays, schmoozing with the POTUS. It all adds up. And now, we are full tilt into “busy season,” when we help serve the investing public by carefully scrutinizing, rewriting (if needed), and then signing off on corporate financial statements. Are they fact or fiction? With the good work of auditors, no doubt, we’ll never know. But without auditors, the recent (or is it ongoing; either way for us life is always good) financial crisis would have been much worse and you would have been gone much sooner! Just joking.
Seriously though, I want to thank you for your years of service. Most especially, I want to thank you for so graciously accepting our terms of separation (not that you had a choice). Even though you were not an “owner,” but just a “people,” your departure has freed up vital dollars needed to fulfill the promise we made a few years ago, that leadership would allow NO deserving partner to earn fewer than a million dollars a year. Unless, of course, said partner was a slacker. You probably heard (or maybe even wrote) our saying: “The more in billable hours, the more in partner powers.” If a partner doesn’t earn, let ‘em burn, they outta here.
I also want to let you know that the firm wants to be your friend for life. This means that because we terminated you when you were near retirement age, we reported it as “early retirement”—hope you don’t mind, it keeps our lay-off numbers down—so we now welcome you to our exclusive retirees club. You are eligible for all of the privileges that we so generously afford our early retirees (except U.S. retirement benefits, sorry)—free “transition” counseling for one year; free membership to our exclusive alumni association; free membership to our exclusive retiree Colleagues for Life Club; and free membership to our very exclusive job listings site (good luck with that one at your age).
The honor that you have bestowed upon this great firm—leaving without filing a lawsuit—we very much appreciate. We trained you well—litigation is the last thing an audit firm wants to deal with. We are all about TRUST, and LEADING THE FIELD in LEADERSHIP, NUMBERS, SIZE, REVENUE, (and layoffs, but hush). As you well know, the most important thing we do in the firm is to make money (for ourselves). Our assets are our greatest assets.
So on behalf of the owners of the firm, I want to thank you for leaving, and for making the ultimate employee sacrifice—contributing to the welfare and egos of our partners and principals. When I started with this firm decades ago, I was just a coffee jock, but I made sure I brewed the best-darned coffee in the office, and now here I am, CEO. What does that tell you about the audit industry? Surely it’s a Grande reflection of our profession—Numerata dominari. You know our saying: good auditors make nothing—but money, and good coffee!
Your CEO Friend for Life
Stuart L. Goosman is a writer and owner of Executive Business Writing. He formerly spent 12 years’ hard labor behind the walls of the Big Four (went in a kid, came out a man), having been sentenced and incarcerated in 2001 ostensibly for quitting his career as a university professor (serves him right). Stuart offered GC this draft of a farewell letter from one firm CEO sent to a “transitioned” (or “out counseled”) employee who had fallen victim to a headcount reduction, a purging of the ranks, (leadership called it a “firm reset”). It occurred during a secret cost reduction project, code-named Project Urassic Park. Find him on LinkedIn here and if you like him, we might keep him.