Being a good CPA means being there in crisis - Albuquerque Journal

Being a good CPA means being there in crisis

I grew up on the East Coast.

When I moved to Tucson for graduate school, and later to Albuquerque, I was shocked by the lack of clouds in the sky.

Growing up I knew clouds. I was young at a time without cellphones, cable TV, internet or video games.

Joni Mitchell’s lyrics spoke of clouds as “rows and floes of angel hair, and ice cream castles in the air, and feather canyons everywhere.”

I recall imagining what a cloud formation resembled. Like Joni’s song, now those clouds just block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.

I woke today expecting a fairly uneventful day. By noon I had three 911 calls relating to the structure of proposed transactions. My day had changed.

With age, my appreciation for clouds has waned, but my appreciation for people and their concerns has increased. I try to remember both sides as I confront their problems.

I chose to be a CPA. Admittedly, the choice became easier when “professional baseball player” surpassed my carefully honed cloud structure imagination.

CPAs are in a service profession. I try to remember this as my puffy white cloud days turn to storms. I try to remember that clients, like lyrics from another Joni Mitchell song, are “fearful when the sky (is) full of thunder.”

Being good in a service business requires replacing thoughts of annoyance with acts of kindness.

The act of service does not have to be hard.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace.”

Being a good CPA requires a college degree but it also requires that heart full of grace. The ability to understand that the issue of the day, to the person facing it, merits a 911 call.

This can be particularly true for older clients. Early and late in life our days are less filled with activity. So for those at both ends of life, needs seem more immediate.

Each of us faces decisions to serve in our jobs. Some people are naturals at it. I am one who needs to work to not be a stormy cloud.

It helps to recall the acts of those who are naturals. My mother loved to take the train into New York. Late in her life, my family took her there for a weekend, including a Broadway show.

Post-show was a stampede of humanity. Quite a challenge for a woman who was unstable from the effects of several strokes and who had to go to the bathroom.

As any woman knows, the women’s bathroom is always backed up into the hallway. I asked a staff person for help. She took my mother down a hallway to a private bathroom reserved for staff.

This was years ago. I remember it. When teaching at the University of Oklahoma I was interrupted by a call from my wife. Our frozen pipes had burst. I told the class I had to go.

A student said he was a plumber. He came with me and fixed the problem. He refused to take any money.

When I moved from Phoenix to Oklahoma, I drove one car with a dog and my wife and a friend drove our other car. While passing through Albuquerque on a hot summer day my car broke down.

I made it to a service place. A young man met me. He heard I came from Phoenix and told me he just graduated from automotive school there. He saw I was worried about the dog overheating.

He fixed my car. He charged me nothing. I remember him, the Broadway worker, the plumber, because what to them was a simple fix was, to me, a crisis of the moment.

Most client calls are, to me, simple fixes. It takes work to remember that to the client it is a 911 emergency.

I work to remember clouds look different from both sides because it doesn’t come easy for me. It may not for you. Yet remembering also helps me enjoy days that turn from uneventful to thunder.

James R. Hamill is the director of tax practice at Reynolds, Hix & Co. in Albuquerque. He can be reached at jimhamill@rhcocpa.com.

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