The first part of my journey to becoming a B2B CFO® Partner was described in an earlier article. I said I would split it into two parts, and that’s not going to happen. It will be either 3 or 4 before I’m done. So let’s call this #2 of X. The first installment left off with me working for my first firm out of college and how my non-conformity to the standard CPA mold made me a bit of a challenge for some of my supervisors. There was a supervisor there with whom I didn’t get along well. However, he once told me something that stuck with me throughout my career. “Joshua”, he said, “most people move from point A to point B to point C. You can look at point A, see point C, and bring them together.” To me, this was natural. I did not really understand that everyone wasn’t wired that way. If one was so inclined, one could call it a gift. However it was a gift with some strings attached. By making the logical jumps between ideas in my head, I was not as good at preparing workpapers as some of the other staff, and the paper trail was very important. I knew what I had done, however the steps in the process were all in my head. It took me many years to break this habit. However, because of my ability and because I quickly picked up on concepts, the partners soon had me preparing projections in Lotus 1-2-3 (remember that program) for clients and doing more advanced work. I reveled in this, it was my favorite task, much more fun than bookkeeping or preparing tax returns. Soon I started doing tax research, and that was great, too, as it exercised my brain and added new knowledge instead of just using what I already knew.
Still, all good things must come to an end. The firm merged with another firm for about a year and then they split up. A third partner was added. I was getting restless, wanting new challenges. Recruiters would call me periodically and ask me if I wanted to change jobs. I always turned them down, until the spring of 1989. I did want a change, I didn’t see a future at my current firm. So, after a few interviews, I signed on with a firm in Rockville, MD, which also had an office in Northern Virginia. This was a bigger firm with about 50 employees compared to the 20 or so at my first firm. Here I was working just in the tax department. I worked with a wide variety of clients, although a fair number of them were real estate related, and I found I really liked that work. I was doing mostly tax return preparation and tax research and was getting very good at it, although the firm also had me continuing to work on projections, again recognizing my talent at it. The downside was that Rockville was a long drive for me every day and the hours were long. I had purchased a home in Baltimore, so I didn’t want to sell it and move. While I liked most of my co-workers, and especially the tax partner, after 3 years I began to burn out. I needed a change.
Once again I was approached by a recruiter. And he was a Big 8 recruiter, actually working directly for KPMG Peat Marwick. Was I interested in working for their real estate department? I had never worked for a national firm before, I didn’t want to become just another audit drone out of college. However, with a desire to keep expanding my knowledge, now it became intriguing. I signed up, making it 3 ½ years in a job for the 2nd time. I joined the downtown Washington, D.C. real estate department and was exposed to clients bigger than I had handled before. The challenges were there, and so was the pressure. One of the nicest things was that the National Tax Office was upstairs, and when I ran into complex issues which stumped my department, all I had to do was take an elevator a few flights up to find a top expert. This helped me greatly expand my knowledge. And again, I was the guy who was most versatile with computing. Sometime in 1994 or 1995, I began designing a program to help companies account for some complex IRS allocations related to REITs. It was designed for a large Washtington, DC REIT, however, it got the attention of the Client Service Technology department of KPMG, and soon another move was in the future. I’ll pick up from there in part 3.