Should I Leave?

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  • #3047049
    ellejay
    Participant

    I hope I didn't commit career suicide here.

    I work at a small tax firm, 3 partners, 2 staff + support staff. I am a staff here, and been here for 2 years. Before this I was at another small firm for 5 years. I am not a CPA yet, I was a non-traditional student, I have two kids, and graduated college in my 30s.

    In April an outspoken partner who is elderly made a comment to me that pissed me off, and tax season had already been stressful for me. In an emotional evening, I messaged an attorney friend and asked if he needed an accountant. He said he did, actually, and the next day he sent me an offer. I told him actually I needed to finish up tax season through July as I didn't want to burn bridges, and he agreed to wait.

    I've had ups and downs since then, but I overall still considered the job offer because it is less hours and closer to my house. So, on Monday I decided to give notice to my current job, even though I'd constantly gone back and forth on this decision. My boss was shocked, but said he understood.

    Tuesday he sat me down and said he doesn't want me to leave, and he is unhappy seeing me go into a job below my abilities. That is something I have had trouble with in this decision, as I feel I will just become a bookkeeper (even though overpaid). My boss is offering me a more flexible schedule, to work at home 2-3x per week, even able to leave half days to pick up my kids and finish at home. He said he doesn't care as long as work is getting done and I get my billables in. He is offering me a small raise too, and told me there is more of a future here than at my other job. He said he knows things have been overwhelming this year, and threw the other staff under the bus for not getting their work done, and unfortunately that's why so much pressure has been put on me (I do the bulk of the work right now).

    But this other job is closer to home, less stress, more time with kids, more time to study… but again, has its cons which could be big for me.

    My current boss also said if I do decide to take the other job, he will allow me to work contract basis here which could help make up for the lost income, but again – potentially I could limit my future with the law firm.

    I don't ever plan to work for a large firm. I don't ever plan to leave for some lucrative industry job. I just want something comfortable, to support my family – but I do want to grow from where I am at. I do enjoy the work I do in tax. I'm not the best at it, I am growing slowly, but I see myself getting better every year.

    I have to make up my mind this weekend on which job I should choose. I am so torn. All of my friends (not accountants) say I should choose to law firm, but they don't understand accounting.

    If this was you, in my situation, which job would you choose?

    FYI it did cross my mind that if I choose the counter offer, I could be viewed as not loyal to the firm and a flight risk… But so far I haven't gotten that vibe. Maybe I am wrong in my assessment, but my boss seems to view everyone as a “tool” I think he would work me no matter what if I was getting stuff done. He also said he really appreciated that I waited and gave him so much notice, so I think in that way I showed some reliability or consideration.

    AUD - NINJA in Training
    BEC - NINJA in Training
    FAR - 63
    REG - NINJA in Training
    FAR - 63, rematch February 2018
    #3047094
    Recked
    Participant

    A couple things to consider here.
    Depending on your state, it's most likely your job at the law firm would not have a CPA to verify your experience. You leaving this job and burning the bridge will make that employer less likely to sign off on your hours once you do pass the CPA, if that is still your goal.

    With 3 partners, at least one of which is elderly, and 2 other under performing staff, it seems your path to partnership is pretty clear. It's never good to jump out of public accounting and I would discourage you from doing so. Obviously with a young family your goals will be different than mine, but you are right to question this as far as long term goals.
    A flexible work schedule is appealing.

    My advice is to sit down with your current boss, and ask some difficult questions. What's the future of the firm look like in 5 years, or in 10 years? What does your future look like if you stay there? Are they looking to promote internally to build the younger staff into partners to take over the workload/firm? Or are they just looking to use you as a tool to get the work done, to continue to build the book to ultimately sell to someone else or be bought out by a larger firm?

    Any way you cut it, your future is much brighter after you have those 3 letters. Now you just need to figure out what your path should be. He is absolutely correct about you having more of a future there as far as earning potential goes, but ultimately it's all talk unless he lays out the career path (and you can get it in writing preferably). Depending on your state laws, you might be able to record the conversation. Always recommended if possible so that you can listen to the conversation and review later to make sure it all sinks in. You might miss, or not remember, a lot of what is said during a heated/stressful/or highly emotional conversation. The laws of your state will determine if you need 1 party or 2 party consent to record.

    I would also encourage you to figure out how much you bill per year, and counter his small raise. You never get if you don't ask. If he's willing to extend all of these things to you in the offer, and you do a lot of the work, you can probably make this work out to your benefit. Show him how much money he is making off of you. Maybe you can get the small raise plus fewer hours so you can spend more time with your young family. Maybe you can get half days during non-busy season to have more time to study.

    You played your cards right by staying for tax season and giving lots of notice. You are clearly valued and needed, they see you as an asset. Please continue to update this thread, I would like to see how this plays out for you.

    Memento Mori - Kingston NY CPA & EA (SUNY Albany 2002)

    FAR-93 11/9/17 (10wks, 250 hrs, Roger 1800+ MCQs, Gleim TB 600+MCQs, SIMs)
    AUD-88 12/7/17 (3 wks, 85 hrs, Roger 1000 MCQs no SIMs hail mary)
    REG-96 1/18/18 (6 wks, 110 hrs, 1400 MCQs, no SIMs)
    BEC-91 2/16/18 (4wks, 90 hrs, 1240 MCQs)

    #3047103
    ellejay
    Participant

    Recked,

    Thank you very much for your response. To answer your questions: “What's the future of the firm look like in 5 years, or in 10 years? What does your future look like if you stay there? Are they looking to promote internally to build the younger staff into partners to take over the workload/firm? Or are they just looking to use you as a tool to get the work done, to continue to build the book to ultimately sell to someone else or be bought out by a larger firm?”

    The firm is growing very quickly. Right now we have been turning down some clients because we don't have the staff to do the work. We are down a manager, and the other two partners are elderly. When I interviewed for the position 2 years ago I was told that I could become partner in 10 years if I get my CPA and work at it.

    My boss has mentioned promoting to senior, but he said I need to work on some things before I am at that level. I have a bit of an issue with seeing the “big picture” on a return and overlooking big errors-something I am trying to improve on.

    So I am sure the ability to move up is there. We have the openings, I just don't have the skills yet and I'm trying to figure out how to get there.

    I really like your suggestions, specifically to find out how much I billed for the firm last year. I will have to find out how to get that info.

    AUD - NINJA in Training
    BEC - NINJA in Training
    FAR - 63
    REG - NINJA in Training
    FAR - 63, rematch February 2018
    #3047115
    Recked
    Participant

    That's the quickest/easiest way to figure out what you are worth to them. Figure out how much they bill your time at, and then figure out how many hours they billed for you last year.
    Then you need to determine how much you cost them. Salary, health, other benefits, half of FICA, unemployment, etc.
    So you take your billings, less your cost = how much they make off having you there.
    Obviously if you ask for a raise that exceeds what they make off of you, it will never work. The clients belong to the partners, and they need some financial incentive to keep you employed and continue to train you and build your skill set. Once your skills are fully developed and you can operate completely on your own from soups to nuts, then you can get more aggressive with your demands for money.

    Once you get your CPA, your billable value increases, potentially by 1/3 to 1/2, depending on your skill set and rates in your area. So you learn, you get certified, you make yourself worth more, you generate more revenue for the firm, and you make more.

    And that's the whole deal behind becoming a partner or just progressing in your career in general.

    Words of wisdom. Watch out for the situation/boss that keeps talking about you becoming partner just to string you along, making you think you are earning equity into a firm. This is where the written agreement or records of the conversations become especially useful to you. You're a ways away from that part now, but just something to watch out for in the future.

    Memento Mori - Kingston NY CPA & EA (SUNY Albany 2002)

    FAR-93 11/9/17 (10wks, 250 hrs, Roger 1800+ MCQs, Gleim TB 600+MCQs, SIMs)
    AUD-88 12/7/17 (3 wks, 85 hrs, Roger 1000 MCQs no SIMs hail mary)
    REG-96 1/18/18 (6 wks, 110 hrs, 1400 MCQs, no SIMs)
    BEC-91 2/16/18 (4wks, 90 hrs, 1240 MCQs)

    #3047241
    Pete
    Participant

    Yea, whatever you do, don't leave the firm, until you have the CPA license signed off on. I was at a smaller firm, but laid off. I passed my CPA exam, but still (2 year later), can't fulfill the licensing requirements. It's relatively hard to get back into public accounting, once you leave and not many people within industry retain the license. So now I've got a worthless piece of paper.

    #3047256
    monikernc
    Participant

    Pete, there are options for you to get licensed. What state are you in?

    Elle, I work for a law firm and do very interesting tax work in estates, trusts, individuals , gifts, and a lot of tax research for attorney cases. I have two bookkeeping clients that are a snooze but the rest is great. You do need to get licensed- get your experience affidavit from your current employer before you go. Or consider an EA if the attorney is interested in developing a tax practice for his clients. This could be fun!

    AUD - 93
    BEC - 82
    FAR - 76
    REG - 88
    How have you been?
    Ninja book and MCQs and the forum, all first try! 2016
    Licensed State of Montana April Fool’s Day 2020
    State of Colorado June 2020 - AICPA Ethics 93
    Experience was the worst part of the journey for me. You?
    If you want things to change you have to do something different.
    #3047346
    Pete
    Participant

    CT – my state doesn’t have that verification option so I need to work under a CPA in industry. I’ve found a lot of people in Industry let their license lapse within this state due to the high Cost of maintaining it. My former boss let his lapse. Now I’ve been networking with multiple partners, hoping to get back in, but having a very difficult time, since they will typically only pull from interns – even a lot of interns don’t get the offer anymore. Mind you, I’ve also passed the CFE exam, which I also can’t get licensed for, so I keep having to pay $100 to keep the application active, every few years. Kind of frustrating.

    #3048879
    monikernc
    Participant

    Pete, you will need to confirm with the CT Board but at least read through the rules and consider getting a license in a state that doesn’t require the licensed CPA to be your direct supervisor, Montana or Kentucky, to name two, then apply for reciprocity to CT. This is what substantial equivalency is all about. Good luck!

    https://portal.ct.gov/DCP/Occupational-and-Professional-Division/Occupational–Profess/CPA-Certificate-by-Reciprocity

    Elle, let us know what you decide and good luck!

    AUD - 93
    BEC - 82
    FAR - 76
    REG - 88
    How have you been?
    Ninja book and MCQs and the forum, all first try! 2016
    Licensed State of Montana April Fool’s Day 2020
    State of Colorado June 2020 - AICPA Ethics 93
    Experience was the worst part of the journey for me. You?
    If you want things to change you have to do something different.
    #3050670
    JFKGY
    Participant

    In my opinion, when you speak up about leaving and give you notice, it's almost no turnaround. Your boss is always going to counteroffer you. You can take it or you can leave. No matter which one you choose, you are turning the bridge of the other side. If you do choose to take the counter offer and stay, it will be just a matter of time that you choose to leave again (maybe in couple of years).

    Why isn't there no CPA in a law office? Who is their contracted CPA? Perhaps you can get a deal with that contractor and the hours (as long as the CPA certified that he/she oversees you). IF not, just chip in a few tax season part time job, work freelance or work online, volunteer in a non-profit that have a CPA, etc. Is the tax firm at least willing to certify you the hours you've already did?

    The board / management question is always a tricky one. Once you have speak up about leaving, your chance to be promoted will decrease even if you stay. Remember, a partner can always choose to hire someone from outside to be the manager or new partner. I was once in a job position paid as a staff accountant, but actually worked like a managerial for 5 years. I was waiting and waiting, it never happened due to various reasons.

    NY - License Approved December 2020.
    #3051963
    ellejay
    Participant

    Thank you all. I have decided to leave the firm, mostly because the counter offer does not resolve the issues I had that caused me to want to leave in the first place, but also because I do believe that the firm will see me as less dedicated in my role since I tried to leave (and as someone else mentioned, I will most likely want to leave again in a year or so).

    I'm not confident the new job is a great fit for what I want my career to become, but I have some time to think about that. This job will be less hours so I will have more time to study for the exams to hopefully pass them. I'm thinking if I pass the exams and have been out of PA for a year or so but with the experience I have, I could probably find another PA job in a small firm if I decide I want to go back. This has been a hard decision because I feel like I am giving up, but I need to change my thinking.

    My current job did ask me to do some contract work for them, so there's that too.

    AUD - NINJA in Training
    BEC - NINJA in Training
    FAR - 63
    REG - NINJA in Training
    FAR - 63, rematch February 2018
    #3052041
    JFKGY
    Participant

    Whatever you do, best wish for success. If your boss is willing to sign off partial experience for you, be sure to get it. Some states (such as NY) allows experience first before passing the exam, so you could possibly find a state that you can submit an application and kept those experience without residency requirement.

    NY - License Approved December 2020.
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