August 13, 2020

Accountants blog?

The Accounting Ethicist Goes Off the Reservation

If there is a single thing I enjoy about this job, it’s definitely not my esteemed colleague Colin or whatever his name is, but the fact that I get to hang out – and subsequently, get to know – CPAs. Sometimes that’s on Twitter, or speaking at a Stanford class or scurrying through the secret tunnel underneath the Senate and House office buildings. I get to show up late (sorry, the BW Parkway sucks) to Tom Hood addressing a room of young CPAs, asking their opinions on how they want to shape the future of the industry. Somehow I even got invited to Council, and got to see the entire machine in action from the inside, surrounded by CPAs. It’s a pretty awesome gig.

So with that in mind, esome for me to watch a contact sort of deviate from the program. I’ve seen it happen here on GC, the “accounting industry standards” come wandering over here because they want to seem clued in to whatever it is we’re talking about. They’re both fascinated and mortified that we’ve taken accounting to this horrible place. They can’t look away. But they are also so distanced from what we’re doing that they can’t quite grasp the program. Still, they try.

I’m not narcissistic enough to take credit for this but let me just tell you what I saw.


Accounting Ethicist was a project by Seton Hall University Chair of the Department of Accounting and Taxation Mark Holtzman. The project is still there it’s just… uh… changed.

This all started when I inadvertently trolled Mark with a piece by Accounting Onion that accused accounting professors of being poorly assimilated to the idea of blogging. Mark wrote:

I’m sorry to say that accounting doesn’t make for very interesting blogging. See any interesting tax footnotes lately? How ’bout that new FASB proposal? IFRS is already a joke – how many bloggers do we need to point that out? Here comes “Little GAAP.” Is there anything interesting to say about “Little GAAP?” And while I’m at it, have you ever seen the list of topics at a AAA meeting? There could be more accounting professor blogs, yes, but who would want to read all that cr@p?

Right. Who would want to read this bullshit?! To me that’s offensive, I’ve somehow spent the last two years writing about this crap (just swear, Mark, it feels good. You’re allowed to say crap on an accounting blog) and he basically said that my shit is a joke. I know I’ve written some bullshit in my day but every now and then I do genuinely care about what I’m writing about, so it’s shitty to imply that everything I do is too boring for any human being to digest. You CAN make more IFRS jokes, bro, they’re never-ending. It doesn’t have to play out like a fucking AAA meeting, though we’re not against showing up at one of those either. That’s the benefit to having a single location (here) for the profession to behave at its worst (you guys) and just get it out of their systems so they can effectively check those boxes (your job, sorry).

So, at the time Mark got trolled by us, his blog was pretty tame. He asked questions within the agreed-upon “respectable” limit hoping for a reaction. As anyone who isn’t us can tell you, talking about ASCs is not going to make for very lively convo with anyone, even people who are kind of into that tedious shit.

But then just now, Mark has reappeared (as FreakingCPA) dropping such headlines as “Hans off our GAAP!” That’s pretty epic.

In “Why do smart people do stupid nasty things?” he writes:

This obviously has many parallels to the accounting profession. Unfortunately, many accountants and executives have chosen to procrastinate and perpetuate frauds, rather than reveal them. Dr. Kahneman’s research shows that, when confronted with this choice, many people can’t accurately measure the risks.

He admits to reading GC so maybe we did have a small part of this transformation. I can only hope.

Rebranding can be dangerous but sometimes it’s exactly what a non-believer has to do to realize that there are people who do care about this tedious shit, you just have to package it in a way that makes them feel as though they are actually enjoying it.

Why Don’t More Accounting Professors Blog?

I’ll admit, I’ve trolled Tom Selling’s Accounting Onion. From what I hear, Tom doesn’t appreciate my potty mouth but that doesn’t mean I appreciate his salty opinion any less. He hates the idea of IFRS in the U.S., which immediately endears anyone to me, and I enjoy his candid (if slightly more boring than what you all are used to here on Going Concern) tone.

So when I was in full-on troll mode and saw Tom’s recent Why Do Accounting Academics Blog Less Than Other Academics? post, I had to tweet it. Short version of theeems like every bunch of academics except those in accounting seem to blog their bookish little butts off?


Well one blogging academic didn’t like that tweet (don’t shoot the messenger, bro, I am in enough trouble for my actual opinions, I don’t need heat on account of someone else’s *troll win*) and ended up writing an entire post in response *extra troll win*. Associate Professor and Chair of Accounting & Taxation at Seton Hall University’s Stillman School of Business, Mark Holtzman, wrote the following on his Accounting Ethicist blog:

Last night I read the Accounting Onion’s latest post, asking “why do accounting academics blog less than other academics?” The writer, Tom Selling, offers a novel, if implausible theory:

We (accounting professors) rely on the Big-4 oligopoly to hire our students:

There are certainly tradeoffs to blogging, but they all seem to be roughly the same across academic disciplines, except for the presence of the Big Four. For some reason, that appears to be a net negative in relation to blogging opportunities.

Could it be that blogging by accounting professors is detrimental to the career prospects of one’s accounting students? I’m just asking.

I immediately tweeted that this post was not nice or true. (I then added, in a second tweet, that “Accounting professors don’t blog much because we are too busy with teaching, research and service.” That was admittedly a poorly-thought-out answer – Accounting professors are just as busy as English profs or any other area.)

First of all, Accounting Onion’s theory would suggest that somehow the Big-4 fuel an atmosphere of fear. Here’s a narrative: Accounting academics are afraid to say what they really think for fear of upsetting Big-4 recruiters, and that Big-4 recruiters would viciously retaliate against these academics by refusing to hire their students. That’s ridiculous. I think I can speak for my colleagues when I say that we’re not willing to lie (or withhold the truth) in order to get prestigious employers to hire our students.

Furthermore, I’ve worked for the Big-4 (or I should say the Big-8 and Big-6 – scratch that! I haven’t worked for the Big-4, have I?). In my capacity as a Department Chair, I know many Big-4 recruiters and employees. And we accounting professors do have a lot of far-fetched opinions. But I don’t know any recruiters or partners who would retaliate against students because of their professors’ far-fetched opinions. The Big-4 firms are very systematic about who they recruit and wise enough to hire our students in spite of us and our wacky opinions.

That said, how do we answer Accounting Onion’s question? Where are all the accounting professor-bloggers?

Here goes: I’m sorry to say that accounting doesn’t make for very interesting blogging. See any interesting tax footnotes lately? How ’bout that new FASB proposal? IFRS is already a joke – how many bloggers do we need to point that out? Here comes “Little GAAP.” Is there anything interesting to say about “Little GAAP?” And while I’m at it, have you ever seen the list of topics at a AAA meeting? There could be more accounting professor blogs, yes, but who would want to read all that cr@p?

He goes on to point out that there are notable exceptions to the rule – Going Concern being one of them – but for the most part, the gist I got was that accounting is too fucking boring to warrant dedicating one’s time and effort to writing about it. Thanks for crushing my lofty career goals and any pride I had (if I ever did) in what I actually do for a living.

Pride isn’t the only thing that makes me take issue with that. I have somehow made writing about accounting my life for the last three years so I get that it’s boring. Trust me, I am the last person on the planet who would have ever thought accounting could be interesting but then I started following the adoption of IFRS in the U.S., SEC employees’ porn problems, massive frauds and interesting police blotters starring CPAs around the country. Know what? It’s not that fucking boring. And I don’t just say that to make myself feel better about my questionable career choices.

Who would want to read about that crap? A lot of people, actually. I am amazed by the amount of traffic I get on accounting-related posts on Jr Deputy Accountant that are months or even years old. Are accountants on top of the news cycle? Well no, there is no news cycle. Thank God I have the CPA exam to write about or else I might be out of a job for as little news we get in this industry. But accountants are just as interested in opinion and information as anyone, if not more.

So? What do you guys think? Would you actually read blogs by your accounting professors?

Five Ways Not to Suck As an Accounting Blogger

Initially Caleb got butthurt and thought I was writing this article about him but I guess that means he thinks he sucks. I can’t name any accounting bloggers that actually suck and know plenty so here’s how not to tip that number past 0 if you’re thinking of taking it up.


Write about what you enjoy Believe it or not, there are people who care about: CPA exam experiences, SOX compliance, non-profit accounting, accounting technology, Big 4 bashing, rence, accounting education, the Fed (cough), tax law… you name it and someone is writing about and looking to read about it right now. If you write about what you think people want to read about, chances are they won’t read it. Someone out there is totally into keeping LIFO even after we adopt IFRS so if that’s your thing, go for it but stay true to what you’re into.

Don’t isolate There are some folks who get away with being reclusive hermits or narcissistic pricks that don’t engage with the broader group of us (I won’t name names) but for the most part, if you want people to embrace what you’re doing, you’re going to have to bite it and talk to them sometime. Don’t trip, we’re not that bad. You can pick and choose which of the bunch you associate with and no one is saying you have to like every other accounting blogger out there. But at least find a few who don’t annoy you to talk to and share ideas with every now and then. If Dennis Howlett can manage, so can you.

Don’t get stuck in your niche Even if you’re strictly into LIFO, think about reaching out beyond your specialty and even beyond accounting to areas like finance, law and politics. It’s OK, it’s all relevant. The great thing about writing about what you love is that no one can tell you how to do it, not even us. The broader your subject matter, the more appeal you’ll have.

Actually try The thing about writing for this audience is that you have to keep doing it without getting much interaction back. We’ve personally seen countless state societies of CPAs abandon or under-evaluate their efforts in this medium simply because they didn’t get the Seth Godin reaction they were expecting. You aren’t Chris Brogan and accountants aren’t going to flock to your content by the bazillions, there are only so many of them to reach in the first place. Being in such a small, specialized group, it’s important to remember that you might not get the reaction you want right off the bat, if ever. But if you give up early, you’ll miss out on that reaction later.

Don’t think you know your audience’s expectations The best way to figure out if you’re delivering to your target is to access your site’s analytics and see who is coming from where and how. But even if you’re a stat whore like some of us, you can only tell so much about your audience from your side. Listen to what people are saying and try to recognize patterns in what is well-received and what is ignored. This isn’t just a blogging thing, you can use that sort of wisdom with e-mail marketing, Twitter, whatever. They’ll let you know what they like so don’t be so busy yelling your point to listen.

And as a bonus 6th tip, try to shake things up a little. This didn’t make the list because it really doesn’t work for everyone but for some of us it’s the only way to do it. If you aren’t afraid of being humiliated out of the industry with your big fat mouth, try pushing the envelope every now and then. Trust me, it feels awesome.

Stephen Chipman Managed to Not Stop By Going Concern HQ While He Was in New York

This week in Stephen Chipman blog dissection, we learned that SC had another week full of travel, although he managed to resist the temptation to head back to Atlanta for the third straight week. It was typical back-slapping, glad-handing wily CEO shenanigans in Chi-town including a little chat with Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Kurt Campbell. “Dr. Campbell recounted a wonderful story of his very first diplomatic event with Secretary Clinton at Blair House — entertaining a senior Chinese delegation.”

Yeah. He leaves you hanging. Our guess is that Hil was telling Bill jokes and/or doing armpit fart noises but it’s all a mystery because Stephen changes the subject entirely. C’mon man! You can’t do that!


Anyway it and then on to DC for a speech IFRS and why it’s on the road to nowhere in the US of A:

I had been invited to be the after-dinner speaker for the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) Board of Directors meeting. Although I feared the impossible expectation of being a “rousing, after-dinner” speaker on the topic of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), interest was high on the eve of the SEC’s highly anticipated announcement of plans to move forward with their Roadmap for IFRS adoption in the United States.

We’re continually impressed with Steve’s ability to throw in the dry humor, although we suggest dropping the unnecessary quotation marks. Definitely would read more deadpan. If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon of unnecessary quotation marks, you’re probably an abuser.

Moving on…

Chiparoo then trekked up to the City where he talked more about IFRS with the Center of Audit Quality, “The lively conversation focused on the SEC’s announcement regarding further clarification on their Roadmap.” And by that he means everyone there is pissed that the SEC is perfectly happy to drag this thing out.

Post-IFRS chat, SC met up with Ed Nusbaum and they did some MSM hopping, “I met up with Ed Nusbaum and Grant Thornton’s Director of Corporate Communications John Vita for a media tour. Ed is a veteran with the press, but press junkets are relatively new for me. We spoke to reporters at Bloomberg, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and Thomson Reuters.”

Okay, we’re a little hurt by this. Sure we work remotely but would it have killed you to stop by Steve and leave a note? GCHQ might not have the fancy confines of the WSJ or the ‘Berg but we’d make you guys comfortable as possible. Plus there’s always stimulating conversation. Or just simple call saying “Sorry we couldn’t make it. Next time!” just to get our hopes up.

While we’re still getting over this little slight, we’ll just mention that Steve’s blog, to our knowledge, doesn’t have a name. We’ll take the weekend to mull over this but in the meantime, if you’ve got suggestions, feel free to share.

Three Tips for New Accounting Bloggers

After a recent GC post on social networking tips for accountants, our friend and superstar social media maven Tom Hood (CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs, but you should already know that) asked “what about blogs?

Well, Tom, excellent question! What about blogs?

Blogging for accountants is no different than any other industry and there’s no one template that works for everyone.


With MACPA’s own Bill Sheridan breathing down my neck and stealing my readerbase with quality content (just kidding, Bill) on CPA Success, I imagine our buddy Tom doesn’t need tips on how to start and keep up a great accounting blog. But we aren’t all as new media savvy as Tom Hood and making the decision to blog can be an overwhelming choice if not executed correctly.

Personally, I try to practice a single rule of thumb: to thy own self be true.

While the F-bomb dropping, SEC-cussing-out model may not work for anyone but Jr Deputy Accountant (remember, I’m not a CPA, I just play one on TV), the rule in practice is the same regardless of who is doing the blogging.

So here are a few general hints if you’re an accountant looking to plunge head-first into the exciting world of blogging:

Find a mentor – This part is easy! Comb through accounting blogs (Michelle Golden has a handy and incredible extensive list of accounting bloggers you can check out if you’re absolutely stumped) to find a “voice” that aligns closely with your own. Reach out to the blog author, connect with other accounting bloggers on Twitter, and express your desires openly to the community.

Make a commitment – This can often be the hardest part but blogging requires a dedication to fresh content if you are going to be widely read and accepted.

Find your niche – Accounting bloggers come in all sorts of flavors; non-profit, tax, regulation, technology, auditing, etc. It is important in carving out your corner of the blogosphere to find your voice and embrace the area of expertise you are most passionate about. Ask yourself what moves you as an accountant if you are trying to find out what will inspire you as an accounting writer.

The reality is that no one can tell you what works for you and perhaps you will discover a path that has not yet been taken but should you need a little push in the right direction, trying out these tips should get you there with minimal effort.

The key to sustainable, well-received blogging is a passion for what you are writing about; if you enjoy what you do and want to write about it, that passion will translate for your audience and lead to countless opportunities to express your enthusiasm.