September 24, 2022

Busy season

Busy Season Problem of the Day: Approaching a Co-worker About Their Disgusting Bodily Functions

Over at our British sister site, AccountingWEB UK, the following problem was put to the group:

We have an employee at the practice where I work who constantly makes a pretty horrible snorting sound with the back of her throat. It happens all year but is worse when she has a cold, which she does at the moment.

Several colleagues have asked me to have a word with the partners to ask them to say something to her about it because they find it so distracting and even nauseating. Incidentally it’s an open plan office so it’s not like people can avoid hearing it.

So my question is, if I did have a word with the partners, is there anything they could actually do about it? And if not, should I tell them anyway just to get it recorded and so that I can tell my colleagues that I have had a word? Nobody feels close enough to her to talk to her quietly themselves, which would have been my instinctive first suggestion.

Okay, so after getting over the weirdness of idea of “recording” of this conversation just to prove it to your co-workers, we admit that this is serious work environment issue. We’ve all been there. That certain someone who, for whatever reason, feels necessary to dig deep in the far ranges of their physiology to get some phlegm out but just can’t seem to EXCUSE THEMSELVES to do so. Or see a doctor, because you know, there might be something seriously wrong that COULD KILL YOU.

And it doesn’t stop with the throat clearing. What about the the co-worker that sounds like Tony Soprano when they eat?

What about the dude that’s obviously enjoying those four to six sodas a day because you can hear him slurping from three cubicles away? And then there’s the subsequent burping. And not like frat boy burping; we’re talking about the gas that he tries to internalize quietly but it’s actually more annoying and disgusting than if he belched the entire alphabet. YOU FEEL ME?

So what to do? Well, first off, despite your desire to FLIP OUT and scream at the offender(s) in question, they probably aren’t even aware that they are causing you to throw up in your mouth a little bit every day. But you certainly don’t want to embarrass the person (maybe some of you do) and buying noise-canceling headphones for the entire office isn’t really economically feasible, so what’s the solution? Here are some initial thoughts:

1. Slipping he or she some Emily Post.

2. Quit your job.

3. Humming at audible levels. (We realize the risks associated with this approach but desperate times, amiright?)

4. Hiring a “personnel monitor” whose sole task is to quietly address these issues with the offender and to issue written warnings, fines and punishments depending on the repulsion level, number of individual co-worker complaints and simultaneous offenses (e.g. slurping and burping).

Seems like a good start. Now it’s your turn.

Are Accountants Really That Depressed?

Apparently! Health.com churned out “10 Careers With High Rates of Depression” and lo and behold, Financial Advisors and Accountants made the list of “fields […] in which full-time workers are most likely to report an episode of major depression in a given year.”

Stress. Stress. Stress. Most people don’t like dealing with their own retirement savings. So can you imagine handling thousands or millions of dollars for other people?

“There is so much responsibility for other people’s finances and no control of the market,” Legge says. “There is guilt involved, and when (clients) are losing money, they probably have people screaming at them with regularity.”

Over at CPA Success, Bill Sheridan writes, “That strikes me as a simplistic and overly dramatic conclusion, with no mention at all of the opportunities CPAs have to help their clients improve their personal and professional lives. But what do I know?” We agree with Bill, that the write-up doesn’t really portray accountants accurately, some might say, “bullshit” but stress is part of your job. Does that mean everyone feels like running into sick room and sobbing every day? Well…maybe some of you. There are plenty of people that thrive on the stress and then there are those that bottle it up until they finally quit with a melodramatic sendoff.

Everyone knows that working long hours for weeks on end can eventually get to even the toughest of white-collar warriors but your run-of-the-mill stressed out accountant typically has methods for dealing with the the busy season blues. Some people exercise; some people get their religion on; some people drink/smoke/snort themselves into oblivion. Do those things work? Sure, sometimes. But we’ve all worked with that person who you expect to suddenly not show up. Are there more of those people than there used to be? Hard to say. Maybe we should talk about it. Let it out; it will feel good. Plus, we’re cheaper than a therapist.

Annoying Busy Season Problem of the Day: Streaming Video of Live Sporting Events Is Under Attack

From the Twitbag:


For those not fluent in all things Internet, Atdhe and many other live sports streaming sites are being taken down like Mubarak the Nixon Administration. The Department of Homeland Security is all over this, having seized ATDHE.net but apparently they’ve relocated here. All of this uncertainty has our reader concerned:

If you’re suffering from a similar malady, please advise below how you plan to deal or merely suggest an alternative prescription for making busy season more bearable.

More Proof That Busy Season Could Kill You

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

During the tax season of 1995-1996, Norm Lorch was not feeling well. He had a sore throat, but told himself it would go away. In any case, he did not have time to go to a doctor.

Lorch is principal of Owings Mills, Maryland-based Norman J. Lorch, Chartered, a firm that assists contractors, accountants, and attorneys in areas unique to government contracts.

Eventually, he spoke with a doctor on the phone who prescribed antibiotics – two weeks on and off – but he still did not feel much better. At one point, Lorch passed out, but he told himself that he had tripped on something, picked himself up, and went back to work.


While attending an American Bar Association conference, Lorch met a friend who would be conducting the session he was planning to attend. The friend told him in “pretty clear English” how he looked and said he needed to see a doctor. Lorch said no, but the friend insisted, saying that if Lorch didn’t call a doctor, he would stop the session.

Lorch set up an appointment for the next day. The doctor’s diagnosis was strep throat and made an appointment with a cardiologist for the following Monday. At first Lorch said “No, I have to go to Chicago,” but eventually he acquiesced. The strep had settled in Lorch’s aortic valve and destroyed it, causing congestive heart failure. He was given three to five days to live if he did not have immediate surgery.

“This is a crazy profession. Accountants are nuts. We work ourselves to death. I had allowed my clients to be the most important thing in my life. I didn’t listen to anybody,” Lorch told AccountingWEB.

“Making a few bucks less won’t kill you. When you are tired, quit. When you don’t feel good, stop working. Yes, some clients may leave, but they are going to find someone else if you die,” he said.

“I made a lot of money that year and eventually earned a penalty for underpayment of estimated taxes. I called the Internal Revenue Service to explain, spoke with a supervisor, and she said, ‘if you receive another penalty notice have them contact me.’

“Now, my priorities are my health and my family. My daughter had to leave college during her exams because of my medical condition, and I nearly missed her graduation. My clients can wait, and those that can’t wait can go. When you remember what comes first, everything else will fall in line,” Lorch said.

“When I teach, I tell everybody about this and what stress can do to your health because if I can help one person, it is worth it. I persuaded the moderator at an AICPA tax conference to allow me to speak to a group of 50 or 60 people when I wasn’t scheduled. As we were leaving, one man said, ‘Thank you very much. I am going to the hospital,’ Lorch said.

Since his illness, Lorch has lost weight and is careful what he eats. He walks five to seven days a week for one and a half miles. When he doesn’t feel well, he calls his doctor.

A specialist in financial oversight, compensation, and administration of U.S. government prime contracts and subcontracts, Lorch travels at least 50 percent of his working hours, but now plans travel with his health in mind. “I try to extend the hours, spreading two days of work over three.”

Earlier:
BKD Partner Found Dead at His Office

HELP! I Hate My Big 4 Job Part XLVIII

Welcome to the National Hugging Day edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, someone is miserable at a Big 4 firm. AGAIN. Perhaps it’s been awhile since we’ve covered this, so we’ll make another run at it.

Need some advice on a busy season take-out routine? Worried that a client’s strange penchant for ginormous vehicles could be a Ponz? Having trouble coming up with a superhero name? Email u:[email protected]”>[email protected] and we’ll help you avoid something that involves a flying mammal.

Back to our accountant who really needs a hug:

I started with a Big Four firm a little over a year ago. When I accepted the offer pay was a HUGE concern for me. I took an over $20k/year pay cut to accept a “campus hire” position with a firm when I had six years of accounting experience under my belt (I worked my way up from clerk to manager in the years before joining the firm). At that time they weren’t even considering people with non-public accounting experience for experienced hire positions. I was wrapping up my 150 units (even though I am in a 120 unit state) and figured the experience would be worth it so I could get certified and bounce to somewhere that would pay me appropriately.

Unfortunately, I’m now a second year staffer who is expected to work more than my peers- because “I can handle it.” I haven’t had time to study or sit for a single CPA exam and no one seems to care aside from telling me I won’t get promoted until they’re all done. I requested a lighter workload during the summer so I could study but was turned down, sent on an extended out of town engagement with very long hours and then scheduled on another out of town engagement for the one week my boyfriend was supposed to be in town for work. I feel like I am giving up my entire life for a job that doesn’t even care about me.

I’ve tried multiple times to tell the firm about my concerns and am always shut down. It’s not like I hate the job- I actually like it- I just can’t stand feeling overlooked at best and mistreated at worst. I am burnt out and just wish that this job was more in line with my goals. I’m probably not going to quit during busy season because I cannot imagine doing that to the people I’ve come to care about- those whom I actually work with- but I probably won’t be there in the summer if something doesn’t dramatically change.

I feel lost, like I don’t know what else I can do and like I will go apeshit and quit the day the external binder for my client is turned in. I wish it weren’t the case and don’t know if you have any other suggestions for me at this point. Can you think of anything I can do to save my career and my sanity?

Dear I need a hug,

Your email was ridiculously long, so you’ll note we edited some things out that we found to be less important. We’ll channel a certain Irish talking head to any would-be advice seekers – keep it pithy. If not, expect your message to ignored or edited until it’s a manageable length. You want a full session? Get a therapist.

Now, then. You took a risk. A good risk in our opinion but a risk nonetheless and now it sounds like things haven’t panned out the way you hoped. It sounds like you’ve taken many different approaches to address the problem but ultimately it’s falling on deaf ears and now you feel like it’s affecting your life in an extremely negative way. We would suggest leaving ASAP for your own mental health but since quitting right this second (even though others are doing it) doesn’t sound like something you’re interested in doing, we suggest that you at the very least get the ball rolling. Call up some reputable recruiters in your city and explain your situation. They’ll take a look at your experience and will hopefully be able to give you an opinion on your experience to date and some good options for employment post busy season.

Honestly, you sounds miserable, so we encourage you to get out fast but be mindful to find a job that will meet your work-life needs and is “more in line with [your] goals,” to use your own words. It sounds like you’ve already made up your mind that you’ll quit after busy season but there are some things you can do now so that you’ll have something to look forward to rather than going apeshit. Hang in there and good luck.

Your First Melodramatic Farewell Email of 2011 Comes Courtesy of Deloitte

While some of you are understandably broken up CRUSHED that Natalie Gulbis is off the market, there are some who are emotionally exhausted from their experience in the Big 4 and aren’t looking forward to another busy season. That got one Green Dot to thinking:

Hey Caleb,

The following email is making its way around the company, it’s a good bye email from a staff out of the NE region. At first I thought it was funny, but after reading it again, I found it quite troubling. As today marks the start of another busy season, I thought you might want to share this with your readers and stress the importance of mental health. The re end of the day, this is just a job. I think that staff, particularly staff straight out of school, have trouble understanding that. The email ends on a high note and it sounds like he is going to get the peace he really needs, but I hate to think about the hundreds of other people in this industry (this is not a uniquely Deloitte issue) who find themselves in similar situations.

Keep up the good work!

Sincerely,
Concerned at Deloitte


Before we get to the farewell email, we aren’t making light of anyone’s personal situation and certainly not the importance of mental health but for crissakes people, your job is not life or death. If your job is weighing on you to the point of misery, talk to someone you trust. And if you need to take a mental health day, or take a leave of absence or just LEAVE, then do so. There’s no point in pushing yourself beyond your limits. We’ve seen it first-hand and it’s not pretty. Just because some people enjoy (and thrive) under the torture of 60-70 hour work weeks that doesn’t mean that you have to. And if you happen to observe a co-worker slowly losing it, take it upon yourself to ask how that person is doing.

ANYWAY, here it is:

Subject: One day I was sitting wondering to myself, why do people do things to intentionally cause themselves pain?

Hi everybody,

I’m sure some of you have forgotten who I am, and I’ve forgotten who some of you are too, not most but some. I’m sitting here in my old desk in the 2wfc on the 9th floor where I worked during the 2009 audit busy season. I’m writing to inform you that I have decided to part ways with the old uncle D.

I’m not sad and I hope you aren’t either, because this isn’t an end it’s just a new beginning. During my time at Deloitte I meet so many amazing people that I can’t even count them all, so many people have touched my life deeply. I wish I could spend more time with each one of you, and I can. I’m only an email away. During my time here I had a lot of fun, there was a lot of pain, more pain and sadness then I can even hope to describe in a single email. But more and more I’m choosing to only remember the good times, which is making me a better person, a happier person.

Which brings me back to the question I asked myself. Why do people do things to intentionally cause themselves pain? After coming back to the office and reflecting back on my time here I can start to understand. Sitting here in my cold dark cubical on the 9th floor, located in the furthest most isolated corner of the floor, overhead there is no office light as the other cubicles around which all have a single UV light positioned in the ceiling over head, so it’s the darkest cubical around.

Now coming back to all this I can finally see why, why I sacrificed my happiness to sit and stare at a computer monitor for 12 to 14 hours a day. You might be saying, it was because you had too, this was your job. But in our society, in modern America no one can make me or anyone else do anything. I could have just as easily not came in, I could have decided to just leave the firm. But day after day I kept coming. Why? Now looking back I see that it was two things. The first but not most important was my loyalty to the people I worked with, the second was my own fear.

The answer to my fear lies in a song I used to listen to several times every day during the 2009 audit busy season. The song “Drones” by Rise Against is a description of the modern office worker, the song helped me to feel that someone out there understood how I felt, that I wasn’t alone. It speaks office workers who keep coming back to work, to work their lives away. They come back to work every day in order to serve a faceless queen (aka: Money, C.R.E.A.M.). A god which can never love them back or help them attain love because it’s at the end of the day it’s only an object. Yet the people keep working to make that paper.

Well enough of my rant about money. I wanted to thank everyone, even the system which is Deloitte. I want to thank you all for everything you taught me, and all the fun and crazy experiences I had will never be forgotten.

To all the people whom I complained too, didn’t listen too, and got angry with. I am sorry, I want you to know I appreciate all of you dealing with my nonsense and being patient with me, and teaching me. I understand how difficult I can be to work with, and sometimes even be around. I’m sorry if I made your lives harder.

Please keep in touch.

One love,

-[redacted]

P.S. Yes I am crazy, and no I don’t need help

P.S.S. My email is [redacted] Please feel free to write me any time.

Should a Tax Rockstar Transfer to a New Consulting Gig Prior to Busy Season?

Welcome to another MOANday edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a tax vet is looking to move into consulting with their current firm but in a new office. The current office wants this “star performer” to stick around for busy season but ultimately the decision lies with our hero, who is concerned about burning bridges if they jump before busy season starts. What’s a tax rockstar to do?

Recently had your heart broken? Are you a miserable auditor with no one to turn to? Or an overachiever who needs help convincing their colleagues that you’re not just some know-it-all? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll be your shoulder to cry on (and then slap some sense into you).

Back to the David Lee Roth of taxes:

Hi. I am currently with the tax department and thinking about doing a switch to consulting with my same firm, but a different office. The new position will offer better opportunities and as a bonus, better pay. I have already told my department leaders about this switch.

I think this will be a good switch for me, but am afraid there might be some burned bridges on the way since busy season is about to start and I am one of their star performers. They insist that I stay until busy season is over to make the switch because of the extra work load they will have. The final decision will be up to me, but I don’t want to burn any bridges.

Dear DLR,

First off, let us just congratulate you on the new consulting gig. It’s easier said then done to leave a successful run in one area to try something relatively different (without more DETAILS it’s difficult to know how different your new gig is).

Fortunately for you, your humble editor has some experience with a similar situation. Back in the mid-Aughts, I was granted a transfer from Denver to New York. My transfer was approved in the fall, however the leadership in Denver put forth the condition that I spend one more busy season in the MHC. Looking back on it, I’m glad it worked out that way because I was able to spend one more year working on a client I enjoyed and it better prepared me for my engagements in New York.

In your case, you are switching practices so perhaps you could care less about grinding out another busy season with your tax comrades. Similarly, if you’re the rockstar you claim to be, it probably isn’t too motivating to know that you’re going to bust your ass for 3-ish months but then not have your performance considered for your year-end review.

But you’re obviously torn between your giddiness of a new career opportunity and the possibility of rubbing some people the wrong way if you decide to leave them behind. Honestly, I’m a big believer in doing what you want to do, especially when given the option. So, you shouldn’t be surprised when I say move on to the consulting gig now. I understand that you don’t want to cause any friction but if they are “insisting” that you stay for busy season why did they allow you to make the decision? If they need you so bad, they would “require” you to stay. That’s what Denver did to me but again, their need was probably far greater than New York’s.

But here’s a NEWSFLASH: The team will make it through busy season with or without you. If your colleagues have integrity and support your ambitions, this is a non-issue. Chances are, some of them are completely comfortable no matter what decision you make. Others won’t be. Don’t worry about pleasing everyone because you’ll ultimately fail in that endeavor. If you want to join the consulting team now, then do it. Your tax colleagues will survive and if some of them hold it against you, then you’re better off getting the hell away from them. Good luck.

KPMG Manager Irritated with ‘Other 3’ Calling the Kettle Black RE: Recruiting Methods

This week we’ve shared a couple of examples with you that demonstrate how KPMG is attempting to land some talent from its rival Big 4 firms. The strategy ranges from the Google-ish to the good old fashioned cold call email. After yesterday’s post mentioning the latter method, a Radio Station manager felt compelled to point something out:

I am a KPMG manager and I don’t want everyone thinking that it is only KPMG that is on an easter egg hunt to try land experiived the following linked in messages over the holidays:

PwC M&A Advisory Manager opportunity in Mclean, VA

Zahara Kanji Sourcing Manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers

Hi [KPMG manager],

I hope this note finds you well. By way of introduction, I am the recruiting manager for PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Transaction Services Advisory practice. We are strategically growing at various levels across the country. I am interested in your professional background, which seems to align well with our Transaction Services Financial Due Diligence practice. Please reply to this email if you would like to learn more about our business. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best
Zahara

and

Position with Ernst & Young LLP Audit Practice

Renee Scott (Creese) National Diversity Recruiting Manager

[KPMG manager],

My name Renee Scott, Assistant Director of Recruitment with Ernst and Young’s Assurance practice. We are expanding our searches for experienced Seniors and Managers with assurance background and CPA designation.

Sasha Le with HR Consulting Partners, my sourcing assistant, through networking, has identified you as someone we would definitely consider speaking further about these great career opportunities. I’ve opted to make my initial contact with you via LinkedIn, a professional networking venue, so if you are or know of someone who is interested, please contact me at 410-263-3702 or via email at [email protected] OR you can contact Sasha Le via email at [email protected] or via (626) 839-7174. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Regards,
Renee Scott
Ernst & Young LLP

A couple takeaways now that we’ve sufficiently beaten the competitive recruiting drum: 1) This time of year, there’s a big push to bring on new people because, well, there’s a perpetual shortage of people in some practice areas; 2) if you’re unsatisfied with your current firm, qwitcherbitchin and call one of these recruiters. They’d love to talk to you.

As for our tipster’s motivation:

I just begin to get irritated when staff from the other 3 point fingers at KPMG for being the bad guy. They seem to forget that an audit is an audit and unless PWC has discovered a new shmebit [sic?] to account for that the rest of the Big 4 don’t know about then I am pretty sure they audit the balance sheet and income statement the same way the rest of us do.

Now, then. Some clever commenter on the last post wondered “Whis [SIC] is this big news? Recruiters have been doing this in public accounting for many years.” We admit, this isn’t Andrew Cuomo slapping E&Y and E&Y slapping back but we seriously doubt it’s known just how competitive it is. Plus, the firm’s downplay the whole thing. Look no further than the interview KPMG’s Vice Chair of HR gave to FINS last spring:

[Kyle Stock]: I often read about poaching amongst the Big Four. Has that activity increased or decreased recently?
[Bruce Pfau]: Like any business, there are going to be fluctuations and vicissitudes in the industry in general and there’s a certain amount of movement between the firms. There’s no warfare going on between the firms or any vendettas or anything like that. In general, we find at least when people leave us, by and large, they’re not leaving to go to a competitor. And I think the same is true of our competitors. It’s usually because they see opportunities in either a corporate situation or another consulting environment of some kind.

So, Mr Pfau says it’s NBD but the reality is that the talent at the firms is very similar and when the shortage of people in a particular practice area becomes severe, the leaders in those groups put pressure on the recruiters to find good people to fill the holes. It’s reflective of the culture inside the firms and is part of the underbelly of what is going on behind the scenes. And in case you’re new to the site, that’s what we do here.

How CPAs Keep the Holiday Season Productive

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

The holidays: a nice, quiet time of year to enjoy with friends and family, while methodically preparing for the upcoming year and a busy tax season. The only problem is very few of us can afford to take off six weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year, let alone reduce our contact with customers and clients.

We interviewed a number of CPA firm leaders, from sole prs at large firms, to get their take, advice, and best practices on how to best spend time during the holiday season, while effectively planning for the upcoming year.


Communicate and get face time with clients

The welcome lack of immediate deadlines and calm before the tax season storm provides a great opportunity to get in touch with your clients.

“Every year I tell my clients that the holiday season coincides with the upcoming tax season, and that it’s a good time to get in touch and see where things are financially,” said Mark Eiger, CPA, a New Jersey-based accountant. “One thing you don’t want after Christmas is an April 15th surprise!”

Gail Rosen, CPA, recommends an e-mail communication.

“During my downtime, I like to use the software package Constant Contact to send e-mail updates to clients, contacts, and friends. For example, one update every tax practitioner should consider sending this year is a reminder to their clients that they only have until December 31 to do a Roth conversion without income limits and with the option of spreading the income over two years for tax purposes,” Rosen said.

“The last issue you want is clients who are upset that you haven’t informed them of all their options – and the deadline now has passed. I find that when I send this e-mail update, many people reply back. This exchange creates business opportunities I otherwise would not have had,” she said.

Michael Cecere, a partner at Gray, Gray & Gray LLP, hits the road to get some face time with his clients.

“The holidays can actually be a pretty intense time period with a lot of face-to-face meetings,” Cecere said. “It’s a bittersweet time because we’re busy now, and busy after!”

Stay aggressive on business development

‘Tis a great season to be focused on marketing and networking, recommended James Guarino, a partner at Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico, LLP. “This time of the year, we’re always meeting with clients and networking with our contacts, getting out into the public, and letting people know that we’re available if and when we’re needed.”

Cecere agrees. “The business development element never stops – it can’t take a back seat. We continue to attend networking events, conferences, seminars, and set up meetings. In addition, more companies are back to hosting holiday parties, so we’re becoming busier attending our clients’ parties.”

Self-improvement, continuing education

Most accountants agreed that the relative calm of the holiday season provides a good opportunity for conducting evaluations, performance reviews, and catching up on continuing education.

“We’re continually educating our staff, so at the end of the year, we conduct a lot of in-house training,” Guarino said. “We want to familiarize them with the software and tax systems they’ll use during the upcoming tax season.”

His firm, and others we spoke with, also dedicates a significant portion of time during November and December to evaluations and performance reviews.

Review of tax law

Guarino’s team also makes it a point to review current-year tax law and proposed tax law. “Clients want to know how to improve their tax situation – both for current and future years,” he said.

Steven J. Elliott, tax director at Schwartz & Company, LLP, does the same, saving “time for major tax planning opportunities for both business and individual clients in order to best advise them about year-end tax payments and other planning items, such as minimum IRA/retirement distributions, Roth IRAs, stock trading activity, and more.”

Recharge your batteries

Historically, the holiday season was a time to enjoy with loved ones, and generally chill out a bit; but that’s easier said than done in 2010.

“It’s tougher to disconnect now than ever before,” said Cecere. “Times have changed now that we’re plugged into e-mail 24/7. It’s a never-ending cycle because you’re always connected; the higher up the ladder you go, the greater pressure you’re under to respond quickly.”

Guarino’s firm makes it a top priority to remove as many obstacles as it can to enable employees to recharge their batteries. From October 15 until the beginning of December, they make it a point to take time off to reenergize.

Elliott agrees with this strategy. “Best of all, it’s a time when more family time/vacation can take place in and around the special projects. We need this time to recharge the batteries for the next busy season. And, although it is usually a quieter time, there is always something to do!”

How do you handle customer and client activity during the holidays, and what does your firm do to renew and energize its employees? Send me a note and I’ll tweet your responses on the Chrometa blog.

About the author:
Brett Owens is CEO and co-founder of Chrometa, a Sacramento, CA-based provider of time-management software that accurately records and reports back how you spend your time. Previously marketed to only the legal community, Chrometa is branching out to accounting prospects. Gains include the ability to discover previously undocumented billable time, saving time on billing reconciliation and improving personal productivity. Owens is also a blogger and founder at ContraryInvesting.com, as well as a regular contributor to two leading financial media sites, SeekingAlpha.com and Minyanville.

Do Accounting Firms Care if You’re On Drugs?

Recent data suggests that Wall Street types are still doing drugs with unsurprisingly regularity but their tastes have changed with the seriousness of the times.

That is, they’ve traded in the hard-charging llelo fueled days of ’06 – ’07 with a more reserved and apathetic ganja attitude of ’09 – ’10. Trading coke for pot. Blow foe all know that accountants follow/chase the money so we can safely assume that their proclivities for drug usage have followed suit.

However, you rarely hear about drug abuse problems at accounting firms. So where is all this drug use happening? Apparently, it’s going down at REITs:

The highest levels of abuse seem to be at real estate investment trust companies, a sector that, incidentally, does more random testing than others.

But the test results generally capture drug use among new hires, candidates who knew that they would likely be tested. Random drug testing is rare, according to a spokesman for a bulge-bracket bank who asked to remain unnamed.

Among existing employees, psychologists and counselors say that drug abuse has not slackened. Some even say it is peaking, exacerbated by the credit crisis and the volatile and tenuous recovery that has ensued.

As the article states, random drug testing is already rare but where it happens the least isn’t mentioned.

But like we said, you rarely hear about the drug use that goes on at accounting firms. Which makes us wonder if it’s because it’s not happening period. To our knowledge – accounting firms don’t give employees drug tests as a condition of employment and simply defer to clients who require them (a certain Swiss Bank with proximity to shroom burgers comes to mind).

We’re not suggesting that every Big 4 office is like Bernie Madoff’s north pole but there’s enough of it happening that there is a presence within the firms.

It’s no surprise. You Big 4 types (and anyone at a CPA firm for that matter) go through your personal hell on a seasonal (or maybe a constant) basis so there’s probably a direct correlation with your usage and the time of year. For example – that tax manager that manages to work night after night after night with amazing focus as the final 2010 deadlines draw near? You think they just plug themselves in when they finally go home to recharge for the next day?

Plus, as you’re acutely aware, it’s not just the illegal drugs that are popular, “[T]he rage these days is a Pez dispenser with the head of a red devil. Inside? Pills of Oxycodone or Percocet.” And don’t forget the people that have been popping Adderall since college so they can study for 12 straight hours. That has simply carried over into the 14-15 hour days for X amount of consecutive days during busy season.

And don’t get us started on people who get addicted to fast food (a drug in its own right) in order to save time and eat at their desks. The chemicals in the food from [pick your chain] are just as addictive as any drug off the street or from the pharmacy and cause just as much damage to our bodies.

But as you’ve no doubt heard over and over in the peanut gallery, getting your work done is ultimately what matters. Come hell or high water. Come dependancy, insane weight loss or insane weight gain. And lots of people do whatever it takes to cope with that reality.

So? What’s the scoop these days inside your firm? Are drug tests just a section of your offer letter that you agree to, only to be never reminded of it again? Anyone every been tested? We understand that no one is operating heavy machinery out there but bad things can still happen, quite possibly in the name of client service.

Wall Street Kicks Coke in Favor of Pot and Pills [FINS]

Email Reminds KPMG Tax Group That You Best Remain Chargeable in the Summer-Fall Busy Season

As summer creeps to a close, that means one thing for Big 4 tax compliance folks – Busy Season 2.0. In a lot of ways, this time of year can be worse than the late winter/early spring as the drop deadlines approach and your deadbeat clients that never get you what you need on time remind you why they are your deadbeat clients.

It also means the return of mandatory 50+ hour weeks (that’s on the low end). Typically a simple communication from one of the higher-ups in your group should suffice but sometimes a few extra instructions get included. This was the case in an email sent to the troops in KPMG’s Fed Tax Group in the Dallas office yesterday afternoon:

From:

Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2010 2:42 PM

To:

Subject: 2010 Fall Busy Season Hours

The summer-fall busy season is now upon us. Effective immediately through September 15th, all senior associates and associates in the Fed Tax practice should have a minimum of 50 hours of chargeable work per week. If you don’t have work to fill this time, please contact Elizabeth Emerson immediately with your availability and she will work to assign your time to projects. New this year, if you have any unassigned time, the expectation is that you will send a short email to your manager and copy [redacted] on a daily basis with the number of available hours (out of 10) that you have to work on projects. As you are assigned please remember that it is imperative to keep [your timesheet] updated and accurate.

Thanks in advance for all your hard work and efforts during this busy season.

The “short email” probably won’t apply to many SAs but there are probably more than a few A1s and A2s that will find gaps in their day and a quick typing of “I’m unassigned for X hours” today will probably suffice. Annoying? Yes. Necessary? Perhaps. As everyone knows, if you’re not fully chargeable, it could mean the end of your illustrious Big 4 career (and even if you are, that might not save you) and Fed Tax compliance is known a popular group for layoffs come post-October 15th.

But our source interpreted the email this way:

I guess we will have to start asking for permission to check emails and take bathroom breaks, otherwise we will have to “send a short email on a daily basis” explaining why we were unchargeable for 30 minutes a day…

So tax people – how do you read this email? A friendly reminder with a simple request or just one more thing to lump on your pile? Discuss.

Tax Season Ends Thursday Which Means You Don’t Have to Hit the Snooze on Friday

Along with improved personal hygiene, the end of busy/tax season brings the end of sleep deprivation.

Yes, we realize that some of you dolts out there that like to boast that you still dominate your workload on as little as 3 or 4 hours of sleep are either A) lunatics or B) so delirious that you don’t realize that you’re on the brink of lunacy.


FINS surveyed some tax pros about their sleeping habits and found that on average, those surveyed only got 6.8 hours of sleep and that 30% of them felt fully rested while at work.

For the rest of you, getting the 7 to 9 recommended hours of sack time will not only benefit your health (sleep deprivation is also related to weight gain) but it also could result in a safer work environment.

Not to mention that your significant other will appreciate the additional attention which might, if you’re lucky, result in other nocturnal activities as opposed to just sexting. Unless of course you happened to fall bassackwards into a work relationship then you can keep up the cubicle sex as you see fit.

Tax Accountant Survey: Sleep, a Career Casualty [FINS]

Picture of the Day: How to Keep Staff at Work During the Waning Days of Tax Season | 04.09.10

We’re dispensing with words today in favor of the following deterrent.


It’s our understanding that if you breach this guard before granted permission to leave, then something like this could happen:

Three Remedies for the Busy Season Hangover

Greetings, red-eyed accountants. I hope those of you who celebrated yesterday’s sign-off didn’t drink the local watering holes dry last night. The markets are closed tomorrow, so hit the town again tonight and find yourself a Wall-Streeter (or is it a midtowner now?) to shack up with!

Who am I kidding? You’re probably going to sleep like babies for the first time in months.

Regardless of how you spend your first few days of re-born freedom, you need to be sure not to get caught up in the whirlwind slow season.


These short drops in production need to be stretched to maximum gain. Here’s are few ways to make the most of your slow hours:

Cash in that vacation time – One of the (few) perks of a public accounting gig is the incredible amount of personal time. Five to six weeks of vacay is simply unheard of in the private sector (three weeks are standard issue). So why not do something with your time? Sign up for the mass emails from travel sites and pick a random location to cash in those hotel points that have accumulated over the last three busy seasons.

One GC reader told me, “I’m going to Bermuda in a few weeks. Why? Because JetBlue had a special, I’ve never been, and I’ll be damned if I lose out of my vacation time.” FWIW, many of the airlines are running specials now for flights in the next few months. Pick a random location and get the hell out.

Recharge your batteries and your resume – Pick a Friday or Monday in the coming weeks and call in sick. Book yourself a day of relaxation; hit the spa, the golf course, or work on that rusty ‘72 Chevy taking up room in the garage. Whatever you do, keep the Blackberry on your nightstand and spend your day away from the office. After a day of mental relaxation, pick up your resume and make your time in public start working for you.

Shop around for new work – So you want to work at a hedge fund but are currently auditing depositories – what the hell are you wasting your time for? Now is the time to talk to your mentors and work with staffing to really push your accounting career in the direction of an industry that interests you. Volunteer to do clean up work on a client that is decimated by team members taking vacation. Do what you need to do to begin getting the exposure to work that is relevant to your career aspirations.

For those of you done with busy season, have a drink and enjoy your weekend, but don’t forget about your comrades with 4/15 deadlines. The end – after all – is near.

SEC Deadline Watch: Try Not to Make a Scene

So today marks the last major deadline for those working on SEC filers and that could mean that your life belongs to you once again. We should also mention that March 31st is a major deadline for many non-SEC clients so there are a lot auditors rejoicing today (or completely losing their shit).


Whether you plan on celebrating the end of your busy season by drinking yourself blind or sleeping at home rather than the office, is matter of personal choice. There will be no shortage of celebrations anyway – clients, team members and if you’re lucky, a firm-wide celebration after the tax trolls cross their finish line.

This also means that the talk of merit increases, promotions and layoffs will start swirling. PwC and E&Y have already re-reassured their troops that raises are coming this year. Some offices have seen the exodus begin so things will remain interesting and we definitely want to know about it.

Not everyone will be raging however. The aforementioned tax return jockeys still have two weeks of listening to ball-baby clients. For those that are still chasing their CPA, maybe you take a breather or maybe you just keep killing yourself and granted, some audit teams (e.g. Overstock.com) are still working but if you passed the finish line today, congrats, well done, yada yada yada.

Compensation Watch ’10: Ernst & Young Still Planning on Merit Increases

A little more from inside E&Y to round out the week. We got a tip earlier in the week that there was an oddly-timed town hall going on in Chicago this week. Our tipster indicated that the meetings usually occur after the June 30 year-end or in September.

We asked around and from the sounds of it, the meeting amounted to an extremely sober pep rally. The need for a little HR cheerleading is completely understandable, considering the month E&Y has had.


“[T]hey just talked about how they know morale is down, yet no plans for how to fix it. Additionally, they said there would be raises this year, but no mention of how large or small…[and] your basic HR ‘Thank’s for your help’ stuff.”

We haven’t heard the details for the cause “low morale” but it’s quite possible that it could be due, at least in part, to the ehmanlay rothersbay uckshowfay. Plus, busy season is in the home stretch and most people are just over it at this point. As far as fix for morale, our suggestions of Canadidan Tuxes, Timberlands and Hitler videos are obviously being ignored with extreme prejudice. We’re all out of suggestions. Maybe they aren’t the best ideas but at least we’re trying.

The silver lining here is that comp increases are still on the agenda after the initial announcement made by Steve Howe back in January. If they go back on this promise — we’re confident they won’t — you can just blame it on Dick Fuld.

Tax and SEC Deadline Watch: Are You About to Get Your Life Back?

Doubtful!

But it is March 15th and corporate return extensions are being submitted en masse. Tomorrow is also the deadline for accelerated filers to submit their 10-Ks so auditors that are borderline delirious (and probably feeling frumpy) might get more than four hours of sleep this week.

For you tax jockeys, today could mean a couple of things: 1) this is a bump in the road and your life will be even more hectic as your deadbeat clients who are now realizing that April 15th is coming up fast or 2) you don’t touch anything that isn’t an 1120 and you’re in the clear for awhile.


And for you auditors, hopefully you haven’t forgotten our little teaching lesson from the previous deadline? Try and catch all the embedded “f*cks.” And hey! E&Y is still having Canadian Tuxedo Fridays for a couple more weeks so that’s something to look forward to, amiright?

Yes, there are some of you out there that are still billing monster hours with no end in sight. But look at this way, if you haven’t quit by now, you’re in it to the end, so you better just read this reminder from Deloitte and get back to it. It’ll be over soon enough.

Are Accountants at a Higher Risk of Experiencing Workplace Violence During Busy Season?

Seems like logical conclusion, right? Okay, it’s not the post office but yeesh, have you noticed the bitter Bob in the cubicle next to you? Is he approaching the breaking point? Busy season sucks after all and who knows when he’ll eventually crack:


Is our suggestion that accountants might be more likely to snap a little overblown? Maybe. But read this description from AccountingWEB before you blow us off:

You are sitting at your desk on a sunny Thursday afternoon. Your company is experiencing some hard times, and there have been layoffs company wide. A co-worker has been part of the layoffs, and is very distraught. The co-worker may have known layoffs were eminent, and thought it would never happen to them. All of a sudden, the co-worker pulls out a gun and starts shooting up the office!

Sound familiar? Of course! We imagine that someone throwing their 10-key at your head is more likely scenario but violence is violence. The article cites OSHA stating that 2 million people are victims of workplace violence every year but what’s even more exciting/troubling is the BLS survey that “70% of workplaces don’t have any type of violence prevention program in place.”

The solution? Training of course! AccountingWEB breaks it down like this:

“Train managers and supervisors on how to detect the early warning signs of potential violence” – In other words, you know that guy who says ALOUD he’s thinking about punching the next person that asks him a stupid question? You should probably should have a word with him.

“Tell employees that the firm wants to know about any threats or incidences, and that they are extremely serious about handling these problems.” – Naturally it helps if your company follows through on “serious about handling these problems” part. In other words, the guy swinging the sledge around should be tarred and feathered and then fired in front of the entire company. The proceedings should be broadcast internally for those that can’t attend in person. It’s simply not enough to fire the person. Public humiliation is imperative so people get the picture that this shit won’t be tolerated.

“Implement a zero tolerance policy in the handbook relating to workplace violence” – And by zero tolerance, we’re talking no noogies, wedgies, open handed slaps, arm slugs, bloody knuckle contests or even berating someone to the point that they develop an eating disorder.

Violence in the Workplace: Are You Next? [AccountingWEB]

Ernst & Young Announces Canadian Tuxedo Fridays for the Remainder of Busy Season

Officially, it appears that it’s just half of the Canadian Tux. You can show up in the jacket if you want but we’d advise you lose it while at the office.


Oh right, showing up at your client from head to toe in denim is not advisable so that eliminates a fair share of you. As for the rest of you, kindly schlep that extra outfit with you just in case. You never know when you’ll need the biz-pro or biz-casual uniform handy. On a somewhat related note, it’s not entirely clear is if the Texas Tuxedo is allowed.

Allowing denim on Fridays during busy season is probably not unprecedented but it may be enough to get some of you through the next 30-ish days. Enjoy.

SEC Deadline Watch: One Week to Go For Large Accelerated Filers; Is It Really the End?

Not that we need to tell any of you working on a LAF but marking the occasion seems appropriate. For those of you would like to know just what the hell it is we’re talking about, March 1st is the 10-K deadline for large accelerated filers (market cap of $700 million or more and few other conditions).

The sleepovers and MSG overdoses are almost over! Plus, now you can dump your busy season bitch. Rejoice!


Actually, not so fast. Whether or not next Monday’s deadline brings an end to your busy season is another story. Some of you may be lucky enough to coast for the next month or so but since staffing was an issue for more teams than usual this year, we’re guessing most of you will get to hop on another team to help them cross the finish line.

For those of you not on an LAF, you’re probably relieved if you happen to be getting an extra set of hands in the coming weeks. And then there are those of you that don’t work on public clients at all that probably need the help but won’t be getting it for another two weeks when the next deadline passes. Even then you might not get the extra help you need.

Well, shit. Maybe we shouldn’t have brought it up.

CPA Exam Results Are Rolling Out This Week for the Jan/Feb Window

If you’re a glutton for punishment and you sat for the CPA Exam during this window, NASBA Tweeted the above about an hour ago. We thought busy season sucked enough but studying for and taking the CPA exam during busy season has to be one of the most hideous cases of self-loathing an accountant can engage in and we hear it’s widespread.


Maybe sleeping and eating aren’t that crucial to your survival but we’re not really sure how you’re pulling this off. Are you listening to the Jr. Deputy Accountant on this? Since we’re too old to have taken the computerized exam, we were never tempted to try such a monumental feat.

So if you sat for BEC go find out if you passed and let us know because we care (seriously) and if you need to cry, make sure you don’t do it front of anyone. Nobody likes weeping at the office.

Busy Season Interns: Don’t Waste Their Time

Continuing with the busy season theme, let’s touch on everyone’s favorite coffee jockeys, the interns. This isn’t prime season for interns at accounting firms but we know there are a few lucky (?) teams out there that have an extra set of hands on deck.

Getting serious for two, this time of year, everyone is under pressure to get things done and if you happen to have an intern on your team, they either make your job infinitely easier or they are the bane of your existence. If you fall into the latter category, why is this the case?

It’s pretty easy for you to conclude that the blade of grass tapping you on the shoulder every ten minutes is the person at fault but a lot of times, interns get thrown into bad situations where they end up working for seniors or managers that are so swamped (or helpless) that they can only think about their own workload while there’s a 21 year old that needs something to do (besides looking through menus and making copies).


Since accounting firms put so much effort into recruiting the next wave you’d think that this enthusiasm would spread to teams like the Plague. Unfortch, there are many that see interns as an annoyance during this time of year because, “I have so much work to do and I don’t have time to handhold interns” and we think that’s bullshit.

We’re not saying that there aren’t bad interns out there. And we’re not saying you’re not busy. We know better. But if you gave that intern something meaningful to do instead of whining about how busy you are, they might make your life a speck (or a few) easier.

And interns need hand holding because they’re interns. Don’t forget that up until this point, they’ve been wearing sweats 24/7 and that you used to be just like them. Experienced team members should take this time to utilize them in a meaningful way and not as gofers. If you’re one of those teams that needs a gofer, at least squeeze some meaningful work somewhere so they can learn something and they probably won’t mind the gofering as much.

Yeah, it might take some effort on your part but it’s definitely worth your time to mentor these future associates. If you give them some challenging work now and show them a little bit of appreciation for their efforts, they’ll run through walls for you later.

Five Things That Make Busy Season Suck

Here it is the second week of February and we’re concerned that many of you are working too hard. We’re guessing that many of you are already having nightmares about your senior/manager/partner putting condiments all over your work and then eating them while you watch in horror.

However your busy season is going, we here at GC decided to put our heads together to give you a list of some of the things about busy season that make it such a bitch; not to remind you of them but to let you know that we feel your pain. These appear in no particular order and were created by our own sick minds so if anything is missing you’ll have to point out the omissions.

Gaining weight – Unless you’re a die-hard gym rat, your exercise regiment has probably been paired back significantly. Combine that with the all the cheap soda and takeout you’re eating on a nightly basis, that button on your pants is hanging on for dear life.


Losing sleep – As we mentioned, work dreams seem to be part of many accountant’s busy season routine. Maybe it isn’t dreams for you; maybe you just wake up at 3 am thinking about the meeting you have coming up that day and you can’t get back to sleep so you throw on the business casual uniform and get to the office at 4 am to start your day. OR maybe you’re just working so many hours that the time between your departure and arrival times at work have shortened precipitously.

Your busy season plan has been completely shot to hell – There’s a some saying about a road, intentions and Hell or something that we can’t remember but it basically means however good your plans were they probably hit a snag somewhere along the way and now you’re scrambling. When we asked our Tweeps about their busy seasons we got one response “it’s all about planning and execution.” Right. That execution is the tricky part.

You’ve somehow ended up in an unexpected relationship – The busy season bitch if you will. Let’s not pretend it’s not happening people. One of you made an awkward advance and now you’ve got a situation on your hands. Whether it’s someone on your team or a client contact, more often than not, this ends badly. A band aid breakup is needed.

Hours – Face it; this is the cause of all your pain. Regardless of what your teams do to make things bearable, the hours are just a bitch. Sitting on your ass, in front of that computer, listening to the person next to attempting to burp quietly while sucking down five sodas a day is about to drive you postal. Of course there are the sickos out there that somehow gear up every day to put in another 14 hours but those demented bastards plug in when they go home.

The IRS Is Making “Thousands” of Visits to CPAs During Tax Season

Apparently the IRS is not one for timing. Earlier this month the Service announced that if you get paid to crank out 1040s, your life as you know it is more or less over. Well, at least a little more inconvenient. Okay, it’s hella-inconvenient.

Back when the new regulations were announced the Service let it be known that since it can’t get these new regulations implemented for 2010, it was still stepping up its efforts for getting all up in tax preparers’ shit.


The first step being to be to send 10,000 letters to paid preparers nationwide letting them know that they need to be on their A-game. The letters were intended for, “preparers…with large volumes of specific tax returns where the IRS typically sees frequent errors,” and that they should be “vigilant” for errors related to “Schedule C income and expenses, Schedule A deductions, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the First Time Homebuyer Credit.”

Well then. That should cover about EVERY TAX PREPARER IN THE COUNTRY.

Anyway, the IRS is following up the 10,000 “Dear Joe Kristan” letters with phone calls to set up sit-downs with “thousands” of preparers. According to William Stromsem, who wrote a piece over at CPA2Biz, these are “urgent” calls:

In at least one case, the IRS called a practitioner at home and spoke with the spouse by name, asking for a response within three hours and then calling back before that time was up. Another practitioner, who was unable to schedule a meeting during a busy time was threatened with having the refusal passed up the line to a supervisor.

The piece goes to tell us that the visits will be performed in the coming weeks and months and may last up to 3 hours. Does anyone see a problem with this yet?

These chats are designed to be friendly reminders of all the pitfalls out there in tax preparer land; not a compliance visit (but they will remind you of the penalties that can be assessed for any malfeasance). Regardless of the pleasant intentions, the timing has irked CPAs to no end and we can’t say that we blame them. Hope no one is expecting an apology. And one more thing, we’d like to know how the Commish’s CPA feels about this whole thing. Just for fun; he should get a letter.

IRS ‘10,000 Letters’ Program Angers CPAs [CPA2Biz]

Busy Season 2010: Generous Accountant Thinks About Others; Arranges Gathering

Because busy season is in full swing, we’ve been discussing motivation a fair amount this week. The latest pick-me-up came way of Houston from someone that decided to take matters into their own hands:

So I know everyone is busy, busy, busy, but I was given a free Happy Hour at Howl at the Moon and wanted to share it with all of you!

What: Happy Hour event

Where: Howl at the Moon (midtown)

When: February 5th, 2010

Time: 9pm – 12 am

Hope to see ya there! It should be a good way to brush off all the stress that busy season has brought!

Happy auditing,


Having never come across such generosity in our own professional experience, we tracked down this noble soul to find out the dealio. Well for starters, our hero reminded us that it’s difficult for the firms to arrange shindigs this time of year so our savior just decided to make it happen.

Plus, people haven’t been able to get together and share their Busy Season 2010 war stories and lament on the days and weeks to come. This is the perfect opportunity to get together and do just that. Also, they told us that you’re all so awesome and you deserve a break.

Gosh, this might be the feel good story of the season. Enjoy Houston!

Person in apocalyptic environment holding an open can of food

Do You Have Any Tips on Achieving Work/Life Balance This Busy Season?

As your chargeable hours begin the steady uptick, it is naïve to think that you can take the  the same mental and physical approach to busy season that you took to the interim months. Baseball players don’t use the same training methods in September that they did in spring training, and neither should you. “Busy […]

Deloitte Has Stepped Up the Motivational Techniques to Include PowerPoint, Gift Cards

Yesterday we shared with you some motivational words of wisdom from Deloitte. Today the firm is stepping it up a notch, not just offering words, but a PowerPoint presentation informing the troops about Winter 2010 C.P.R. (Cash, Prizes, & Rewards). The long/short is that Green-Dotters will be eligible to win gift cards starting tomorrow, once in February, once in March, and a grand prize on March 31st.
While we’re impressed with this particular method of distraction/motivation, the best part is that there is a key slide that includes an admission that they know, that you know, that your life is temporarily over:
Picture 3.png
Whether your slim chances of winning one of these gift cards is worth A) your skin not seeing a ray of sun for three months B) not having any semblance of a social life or C) your significant other screaming “That’s it! It’s so over! You can sleep at the f—ing office if you like being there so much!” has to be determined by you and you alone.
CPR 2010.ppsx

Motivating Words During Busy Season, Deloitte Edition

From a friend of GC:

If you’ve got your own words of encouragement for this busy season for Deloitte, or your own firm, feel free to share. Or if you’re feeling creative send us your poster to share with the group.

What Happens When the “Numbers” People Can’t Count?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for accountant.jpgThere was some quiet chatter here at GC about Ernst & Young’s closure of its Greensboro, NC office this past December, right around the Merry Happy holidays. Thanks Ernie.
This is nothing new. Smaller offices have been getting shut down for years. Years. Years.
You’ll probably find this to be a shocker but your feelings are not the main problem facing the firms due to the combination of recent closings and endless rounds of cuts. The problem is – it’s the theme of any busy season – firms finding themselves short staffed.
Many readers have commented that engagements are understaffed heading into the cold winter months. Albeit this is typically the unofficial “norm,” but slashed fees are only compounding the problem this year. The troubles of ’09 will be used as firm scapegoats for 2010. Move along, kids. Nothing more to see here.
Serious trouble is brewing for at least one Big 4 firm, however. A source confirmed that their Big 4 Beast is outsourcing work in the Carolinas to smaller regional firms because they are so understaffed:

The combination of layoffs a year ago and people leaving now that the market is turning around is causing the firm to hire outside help just to get through busy season.


Ummm. How did this happen? Is this firm (or any other firm for that matter) initiating rotations from staff “heavy” areas like Chicago and New York to cover the lapses in smaller areas like Buffalo or Greensboro? If so spread the winter cheer, because that sounds downright awful.
The public accountant’s mind is a simple one with regards to job searching:
Picture 1.png

The middle area is commonly referred to as “run through a venti latte on the client and debate.”

The market is moving ever so steadily from red to green. This time is now, and no one, not even leadership, is denying that. Firm leaders have been talking, talking and talking some more about the upswing of 2010. If they are handing out the Kool-aid, doesn’t SOMEONE take a moment to think, “Hey guys, should we really have cut so much staff six months ago?”
Someone, somewhere underestimated staff needs or overestimated staff loyalty. Or both. So now, cutting into the already razor thin fees will be the misguided expense of hiring outside help just to get by. The situation is only going to get worse in the coming months; money is starting to move, financial firms are beginning to reinvest, and jobs are going to be created and filled by your colleagues.
How can a firm’s leadership whose fundamental – and societal stereotyped – sole function is numbers be so off the mark? This is elementary, is it not?

Ernst & Young Extends Busy Season Two Weeks

While Deloitte rings in the new year with generosity, E&Y has apparently taken a different approach.
One of our sources in the Ernstiverse has told us that busy season is being extended by two weeks this year. The first “official” week is this week (moved up one week from its usual spot) and there will be an additional week on the back end (first week in April as we understand it). This means mandatory 55 hours weeks are in full effect, so find some work people.
Oh! And it’s also our understanding that this week, “roundtables” are going on in the audit practice. We don’t know what those are exactly but it sounds sorta serious and it’s definitely not billable, so enjoy making up the time. If you’ve had the pleasure of attending one of these sit-downs, let us know how it went and keep us updated with other details.

Busy Season Outlook: Open Thread

overwhelmed.jpgYou may have noticed that the posting schedule here at GC has ran a bit longer the past few days. This is no accident. We were given a friendly reminder on Monday:

Caleb, this is busy season, I expect review comments an hour later for the next few months. That is all.

Well! Since we’re always with you in spirit, we’ll be happy to oblige this request.
We failed to mention it in our outlook on Tuesday since we figured it was understood that the new year marks the beginning of the end of your lives for the next 3ish months.
Then we remembered that it has been prophesied by many of you that this particular busy season will be the worst in recent memory due to layoffs and the ongoing (?) exodus.
So we present you with our busy season open thread. Discuss whatever you like. Will it indeed be the worst ever or will you dominate as usual? For some of you, it’s your first busy season. Are you soiling yourself from all the horror stories or have you found the right drug cocktail to keep you both focused on your work and oblivious to time passing? Go.

a person in crowd holding up a French flag

In Case You Need Another Reason to Hate the French

french flag.jpgWalking around the PwC office in Midtown Manhattan, our blogospondent in the field happened across a couple of young ladies having the picture taken in front of the P Dubya sign out front, proudly posing as if it was their names on the building at 300 Madison.
Said blogospondent approached the young ladies and asked if they worked at the P Dub and they responded in heavily French accents, “yes”. As result of further prying, it was revealed that the ladies do work a lot during “busy times”, sometimes between 50 and 60 hours a week!
This compared to an American tax associate who we spoke to just a couple days before who, in the last fifteen days, had worked 185 hours.
Let’s recap: America – 185 hours in 15 days in the middle of June vs. France – 50-60 hours in one week during the “busy time”.
American vitriol towards the French may now ensue.