“The Grass Isn’t Always Greener”

October 24, 2011

Tim Messman

Recently, I was reflecting on the revolving door that exists in public accounting. We are fortunate at PKM that the turnover rate is much lower than the industry average. I do get it – Public accounting is not for everyone! It can involve long hours at times, travel and multiple deadlines which can inevitably be stressful. I still hate to see people go, especially the really good ones – the star performers!

I once took a management development course that mentioned the peaks and valleys one encounters during their career. The peaks occur shortly after being promoted, and then there is a dip where people tend to be disenchanted and then a climb to the next promotion and peak. The cycle then starts all over again. This has not been too dissimilar from my own career. The grass can often appear greener on the other side of the fence. Someone much wiser than I once told me “You don’t know what they are fertilizing the grass with though!” As I saw my superiors and peers leave public accounting, many of them indicated they did not find what they sought. I recall one stating they worked longer hours in private accounting than they did in public. Several of these people have also found themselves unemployed during this challenging economy.

I am so grateful that when I was in one of my valleys, I did soul searching of myself and my career and came to the conclusion that I wanted to stay in public accounting, and particularly with PKM. Yes, there is travel, long hours and deadlines, but to me, the following far outweigh what can be viewed as the downside:

  • As a Partner of the firm, I am well compensated and outside of winning the lottery or becoming the CFO for a Fortune 500 company (which I have no interest in), I cannot imagine being more successful financially.
  • I enjoy the people I work with. I get to work with some of the smartest most talented people I have ever met – from the leaders ahead of me to the high quality staff that we hire on a regular basis.
  • I enjoy the clients I work with. It is great to do business with people that you consider your friends.
  • I love the continual challenge. Accounting standards are changing all the time and client issues come up that need to be researched. I cannot imagine a stagnant position where the same thing is done month in and month out.
  • I enjoy working at different places – a client’s office, our firm office or even my home at times. The change of scenery keeps the excitement alive.
  • Flexibility – public accounting provides about as much flexibility as someone can have in a career. You are treated as a professional and as long as you are getting the job done, it is no big deal to take care of personal things as needed. This has been huge for me as I have gotten older and my family has grown.

So, as you consider your own career path, make sure you always consider the pros and cons of wherever you may wind up, even if it happens to be PKM!