Four Things to Remember Before You Leave Public Accounting

This is our second submission from the stable of Going Concern freelancer candidates. The following is by Bob Loblaw.

Notwithstanding a few e-mails I’ve written in the past that had a wider circulation than intended, this is my first piece of journalism (Ed. note: relative term). With that in mind, it’s important to my unpaid writing career to establish myself with the perfect balance of wit, intellect, insightfulness and intrigue.  On the other hand, based on reader response via comment on most of the articles, I suspect that you’re going to shit all over whatever I write. That said, I’m just going to try to make myself laugh while passing off some advice that everyone will ignore. 
 
After eleven years in public accounting, I left about a year ago. I did pretty well and usually was ranked a 4 out of 5 with the occasional 5 thrown in when someone thought I was about to quit. I have a pretty decent job now as the controller of an energy trading and pipeline company and I’m in the middle of hiring someone to be my lackey. Between that, and having a pretty good network in a very large city, I think I have a decent platform to dole out some unsolicited advice to you bunch of malcontents who appear to have either left public accounting, or are anxiously formulating your exit plans. So without further adieu, here are a few things to keep in mind when jumping ship:
 
You don't have skills – The only skills that translate from public accounting to industry are (1) a working knowledge of Microsoft Office, (2) putting up with a hell of a lot of bitching from the whiney asswagons that work for you, and (3) rolling forward prior year/quarter/month documentation. After that, you’re pretty much a blank slate. “Bob Loblaw, you don’t know what you’re talking about” I hear you saying in my brain. “I was in XXXX specialty group. My in-depth knowledge of derivatives/stock compensation/IFRS/fill-in-the-blank will provide unique and valuable insights to my new company." Wrong. Nobody cares about your knowledge. Auditor knowledge is about as useful as tits on a boar. Advisory…even worse. If I see Big 4 Advisory, I assume internal audit. Tax is a whole different story, so I’ll leave that for someone else. 
 
Big 4 whores need not apply – Do not leave a public accounting firm to go to another public accounting firm. Other than the Arthur Andersen collapse, I’ve known four people who did it and they were all shitheads. If I see a jump from public to public on a résumé I assume (a) they got fired from Firm A (b) they are high maintenance and think they weren’t being treated fairly or (c) they are stupid. I usually fire the recruiter who gave me said résumé. 
 
You are not special – Everyone I interview is at the top of their start class, is invaluable to their clients, and is undoubtedly qualified to be the CFO of a public company. This is obviously bullshit. See bullet #1. What will set you apart is acting excited about the job. Regardless of your actual interest in the job, if it’s worth your time to meet the person, you need to pretend like you really care or you are wasting your time. I usually take people out to lunch for more of a casual kick-off interview. The moment I sense that my interviewee is trying to figure out what I can do for him, or giving me any indication of indifference, I will start ordering double scotches until I black out. Then I will make the kid pay for his lunch. 
 
Remember, you are an accountant – Everyone I interview wants to get into M&A, finance, operations, or something else that isn’t accounting. I don’t blame you. Accounting blows. However, no one is going to take you straight from public accounting and let you start running deals no matter how many S-1s you’ve worked on, how many public offerings you have under your belt, or how much due diligence you’ve done. The game plan is, take a job as a financial reporting person/accountant/internal auditor, take some time to learn your business, and then start working on other stuff. Trust me, I’m an expert.
 
I have lots of other advice but Caleb is limiting this to 1,000 words or something. Jackass.  

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