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It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. I don’t know who said this first, but I don’t believe it was Albert Einstein, to whom it is often attributed. But that doesn’t matter too much. What counts is the act of continually repeating something, of waiting or hoping that the result would be different. Well, I just saw this firsthand when two co-workers called me for a referral for someone they wanted to hire.

It was for two different people and they went through a headhunter. One was an auditor and the other a tax specialist. One of the callers was a partner in a company larger than mine and the other was a partner in a company of about 20 people. They called me “unofficially” as a friend and not for a formal reference. I indicated to the two that they should stay away from each person. This is where the madness began. Each partner was trying to get me to say one tiny little good thing about the candidate that would justify, in their minds and to their partners, that they should hire that person. I declined to play this game and had a discussion with them about why they shouldn’t just try to add a body to their practice but should try to get the right person or at least the right kind of person.

My discussion focused on why an experienced “right person” probably doesn’t exist and should try to hire recent graduates and train them while stepping up all the ones they had currently. This conversation wasn’t much different than previous ones with them going back years and years. Each time they have been content to find a body to fill a vacancy to alleviate current pressures without doing anything to provide a method to ensure long term growth.

When I asked them why the headhunter sent them seemingly unqualified people, the response was “that was all there was”. They wanted the body to fill a niche and mortgaged their long-term growth to get it.

I could write volumes about why I think this way, but ultimately they were hiring people they knew couldn’t help them in their hopes of long-term growth in order to get a temporary relief. Indeed, they were doing the same things they had always done but hoping for a different result.


Do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] with your questions about practice management or assignments you may not be able to complete.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is a partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on Accounting Today’s list of the 100 most influential people. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns”, co-authored with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition”. He also writes a blog twice a week dealing with customer issues on as well as the Pay-Less-Tax Man blog for Bottom Line. He is an adjunct professor in Fairleigh Dickinson University’s MBA program and teaches end-user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is an ongoing series where he shares autobiographical experiences with advice he hopes his colleagues can adopt. He welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 743-4582 or [email protected]