The phone rang, and Mom’s caller ID flashed across the screen. At 89, she doesn’t mince words. “I’ve got some bad news.”
Our long-time family accountant had died suddenly in his sleep. I put down the dog’s leash, and sat down to take in the unbelievable news. Paul was an energetic, funny, sharp-as-nails CPA who owned his own accounting practice. What you’d call “on top of his game.”
Though he’d recently sold his business and had “semi retired” at 70, he’d still put in marathon hours during tax season–reassuring loyal clients like us that he’d personally handle our tax returns. No one looks forward to taxes, but Paul somehow made doing them fun. He’d chat us up, make jokes, show a sincere interest in what we’d done over the past year. We knew we were in excellent hands, and Paul would make everything OK.
I’d emailed Paul a couple months earlier to ask a tax question, and I caught him on the beach vacationing with his family. “Someone’s gotta do it,” he joked from his iPhone. But he still took time out to answer my tax question. Paul was like that. And now he was gone.
The sticky note on my monitor to call Paul for our 2013 appointment is a sad reminder of the unpredictability of life. His sudden departure is an enormous loss for so many people, both professionally and personally. Paul taught me a lot about what it means to be a real pro, someone who is dedicated to their craft and helping their customers. A few lessons learned from a great CPA…
Treat every client like they’re your best client. Paul could have started his business anywhere, yet he chose to work in the small town where he lived, and serve his local community. Paul started doing my taxes when I was right out of college, as I eked out a meager living at a local newspaper. He never made me feel less than anyone else, never blinked at my modest earnings. He always treated every question, no matter how basic, with thoughtfulness. Paul gave us that same level of attention, consideration, and service nearly 30 years later. No question was too silly, no problem too minute. Continue reading