Accountant working

Partner Work Ethic – How to Survive It

by Bo Fitzpatrick, CPA

I am constantly amazed at how hard the majority of professionals within public accounting work. At 20-20, we deliver group-live programs for such professionals. So, we usually get the classes started at 8:30 and go to about 5:00, on average. We are physically and mentally drained and ready for a break, be it exercise or dinner or quiet time. But what do our participants (you) typically do? They immediately check email as they head back to their office to deal with client issues, deadlines, and staff needs. I don’t know how much longer into the evening they work, but I ask myself, “How do they do it?”

For good or bad, whether you are a tax, audit or consulting professional, public accounting has demands that are difficult to maintain. The various deadlines imposed by clients, banks, the SEC or IRS, creates stressful conditions. That is just a fact. Yet, studies have shown, it’s not stress that is harmful to us, but rather how we view the stress and what we do with the stress. A long-time favorite book of mine and foundation for this posting is “The Power of Full Engagement”, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. The authors’ premise is “managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal recovery”. NFL football players during summer camp typically have two, 2-hour practices and additional time in the film room, maybe 2-3 hours. So their workday is about 7-8 hours during their “busy-season” to prepare themselves to compete at the highest level. (During the season practice and film is reduced even more.) The other 7-8 wakeful hours are spent icing sore muscles, eating, napping, playing cards, being with loved ones – basically quieting and resting the mind from their primary job. Then they sleep for 7-8+ hours. They, and all professional athletes, know they must replenish themselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This is what the authors call “The Performance Pyramid”. So, if professional athletes performing at the highest level need renewal to perform at their best, it would seem you would too. (Harvard Business Review published a synopsis of the book by Loehr and Schwartz titled, “The Making of a Corporate Athlete” – worth a read).

What is the day in the life of most partners in public accounting like? What is your day like? Based on being around the profession for over 30 years and working with partners from firms around the country, I know what it is like. It consists of a minimum of 10-12 hour days (bump that up to 12-15+ hours during busy season, filing deadlines or special projects like IPO filings). Meals are hard to come by, demands on us are relentless, and we can catch ourselves hunched over staring at screens for hours on end. We work continuously throughout the day/night with minimal breaks. It is almost an impossible pace to keep, yet you do. To be fair, I was guilty of this too when I was in public accounting. It is so hard to break the chain.
So what do we do? We all probably know the answer, but to keep these discussions brief, I will discuss in 20-20’s next posting. Until then, remember, we perform our best when we are rested, full, happy and content.

Posted in 2020 Insight.