July 23, 2018

To Most Accounting Students, Small Accounting Firms Don’t Exist

Small accounting firms

Here’s a fun article by Marc Rosenberg about “how totally uninformed young accountants are about CPA firms.” Now, you might think that this is one of those condescending KIDS TODAY posts, but it’s actually pretty self-aware. Rosenberg offers a picture of a profession that has an enormous perception problem, citing some pretty surprising examples. He quizzed some interns about aspects and here’s a look at the results:

There are 30 local CPA firms in metro Chicago with 30 or more personnel. Name 5 besides the six sponsoring firms of this program.

Result:  9 of the 11 interns could not name even one firm.  The other two named one firm each.

Message to local firms:  Almost no one on college campuses knows who you are.  If you want to attract the best and the brightest, you better get active on campuses.

If you’re an intern, this isn’t a big deal. It’s possible, maybe even likely, for those six firms to hire those eleven interns, so they don’t need to know the names of any other firms. On the other hand, this is an atrocious result for any of the other 20+ firms in the Chicago area.

Here are a couple more fun quiz question results:

How many total work hours a year do you think a typical staff person at a CPA firm works?
Intern’s response:  2,600, almost 20% higher than the actual of 2,241.

Rosenberg writes, “The CPA firm industry is stuck with an undeserved reputation as sweat-shops,” and you can blame the Big 4 for that. They are sweatshops and a lot of small accounting firms have partners whose entire careers are built on that kind of culture.

Then there’s this doozy:

How much do you think typical local CPA firm partners in Chicago earn?
Intern response:  $184,000 – that’s not a misprint!  Actual in 2015 was $410,000.

Whoa, now that could be an issue.

Since I’m one to point fingers, I’ll gladly put the blame for these misconceptions on the firms’ leaders. The vast majority of accounting students don’t know what the hell they’re doing. They ended up in this field either because they “like math” or because their parents recommended it. That’s the extent of their knowledge. But I suspect accounting firms are full of partners who believe their exemplary work speaks for itself and should magically attract in the best and brightest talent in all the land.

That wishful thinking has resulted in the situation that exists now: A bunch of small accounting firms who claim there’s a dearth of talent when in fact there’s talent everywhere. To some of these firms, the situation calls for its own throwback episode of Unsolved Mysteries. WHERE IS THE TALENT? WHY DID THE TALENT DISAPPEAR? WILL THE TALENT EVER RETURN? CAN WE STILL CONTACT THE TALENT?

Small accounting firms need to take their cues from the Big 4 on this. The Big 4 have been yapping about how great they are to professors for decades, so naturally the professors are yapping to students and the students are yapping to each other. It’s all Big 4 yapping all the time. Until small firms get used to talking about themselves, no accounting students will either; and the only thing worse than everyone talking about you, is no one talking about you.


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So today, in the spirit of the intern-season, we’re launching the first edition of “Guess What My Intern Did?” because sometimes they can do stupid things and we want to hear about it.
Examples could possibly include: any kind of shameless, awkward sexual advances on superiors; asking he/she to get a copy of an email from the asshole CFO; showing up to work hung over smelling like Ken Lewis; You get the idea.

Grant Thornton Interns Don’t Get Coffee, Thankyouverymuch

inerncoffee.jpgLast week we asked for some perspective on the chicanery and lovable idiocy of your interns. Today we learn that about a Grant Thornton intern who “verifies that clients’ accounting records are accurate and sits in on important meetings.”
That’s right, interns are verifying accounting records and going to important meetings. Probably the type of meetings where they get to take notes on internal control procedures while the experienced associates can barely keep from strangling themselves with a network cable.
Yet, life remains unfair for the interns, “Interns who talked to RedEye said they are gaining experience to prepare them for the workforce, but increased intern responsibilities typically don’t come with increased pay or perks or even more respect.”
After going to those important meetings, interns still aren’t feeling respected people. No increased pay. No perks. How can this be? Haven’t they done enough? They tried to earn your respect by making the copies that you asked for and getting totally bombed at firm events. They didn’t mean to ask so many questions about the copier. They’re just new, so they want to make sure they don’t screw anything up.
What else can they do? Shine your shoes? Fill your car up with gas? Buy your lunch (they’re probably making more than associates on a per hour basis anyway)? The summer internship season is winding down so make sure you’re letting them know (and us) how they can go that extra mile to get that full-time offer.
Chicago interns move up corporate ladder [Redeye]