Saturday, December 6, 2008

Maybe I'll lose my friends if I do this...

In my previous post, Schaubs asked me why I didn't out the name of the firm. I mean I expressed my anger at the firm that cut two of my friends and I talked about how much I hated that firm. So, if I really hate them, wouldn't I just out them and say don't hire this firm or don't go work for this firm? Well... yeah, I guess that would make sense. The problem is, I no longer work there. So, there's a part of me that allows me to be more objective. Don't get me wrong. I am a very emotional guy and I sometimes let my emotions do the talking first before my brain kicks in. So, if I were still there and the things went down the way they did, I may have just walked out (even if I wasn't the one laid off - and not to sound cocky but I wouldn't have been and I'll go into why later).

Before I go into this post, I need to let you know how I operate. I am an ultra competitive guy. Not in the "keeping up with the Joneses" type of guy where if my neighbor has 3 cars, I feel I have to have 3 also. I'm not stupid nor shallow in that sense. But I want to perform better than others. I want to move up quicker than others. If that means that someone else has to go down, then so be it. It's like a poker tournament on the money bubble. If someone else has to bust for me to make the money, I couldn't care less if the guy loses to a sick runner runner one outer. Better him than me. Yep, I'm an ass. But you can't tell me that none of you ever feel that way. If you do, then you are a much better person than I am. But then, come sit at my poker table please.

From the way things went down, I was definitely pissed at the firm for handling the situation the way they did. It was low, classless, deceitful, and just petty. But, fairly typical of the firm that I remember. They talk about how they care about people but in reality, they don't give a shit about the people. My biggest gripe with them around the time I left was that they kept telling me they cared and that they valued my opinion. I remember telling one partner there that if the firm didn't care, I'd rather they just say "we pay you to do your fuckin job, not to give us your fuckin opinion so shut the fuck up and we'll handle our own situations." And you know what, I woulda respected that so much more than "yeah, we totally agree, we do need to make some changes blah blah blah blah blah *add slurping noises of them kissing my ass and sucking my you know what*" and then turning around and totally ignoring it. I mean what a waste of my time!

Well, so the other day, I told you that the firm cut a few people. Of course, my friends are totally baffled as to why it happened and you know, the layoffs are tough. Especially the one guy they let go is a close friend of mine, a pretty strong performer, dedicated, traveled a lot for the firm, never once complained, never left the firm (there are some there that left then came back), did everything he was asked to do, etc etc. He was a manager there and again, a pretty strong one at that as far as I know from when I used to work with him. But if I take my friend hat off and put my coworker hat on, this would be the reason that the people who got cut were cut.

The way an accounting firm is structured and works, basically, you have your partners at the top and then the each rank below. Once you become an equity partner (ie, have an actual stake in the firm), you get a piece of the pie... literally. You know, you get x% of the firm's revenue. Once the partner retires, you get a decent pension from what I was told... where is that pension coming from? Well, it's funded by the next generation of partners. In other words, the equity partner, once you make equity, have to pay into the firm. I mean when a firm is first set up, you raise capital right? So, it's kinda like that. It's ironic. You get promoted and then you get a loan to pay into the firm (believe me, in the long run, you'll come out way ahead). So, from the partners' point of view, they are looking for the next generation of partners.

Well, let's say the economy is shitty and so it's not like things are going great. Even then, as an accounting firm, you would always have jobs available but things aren't as great as other times. You decide you need to cut back on expenses. One option is the hiring freeze. But see, the other reality is that accounting firms by nature have a high turnover rate. So, if they were to stop hiring, they have to bank on the fact that no one would leave... which is possible with the job market out there but kind of a risk since they would be at the mercy of their employees. So, what's the other option? Well, it's simple really. They'll keep hiring new staff. But, they would have to make room so they would have to make cuts elsewhere. And that's where my friends came in to play.

The cuts have nothing to do with performance. Sure, one may argue that but in reality, it has more to do with their future outlooks. I've mentioned already that the accounting firms are always looking for the next generation of partners. If you're a guy who does solid work but doesn't make it known or clear that you want to make partner, or if you're not on a partner track, you become more expendable than the person who is clearly on partner track. And that's why I say that I probably would not have been cut if I were still there. While I was at the firm, everyone in the firm (even partners in other offices) knew my intention... which was to make partner. During firm retreats, I used to joke with some of the partners that I want to fund their retirement so it was their obligation to give me the opportunities to do so. I was driven, ambitious, and eager to make partner. In all honesty, for as long as I was with the firm, that's what I always thought. When my peers all mentioned that they didn't know what they wanted to do in the future, I never understood that mentality. I never understood how you can work in a place while wondering what the next step is. Of course, I went through that period once I started looking for another job and my performance was shit as a result. As long as I am with the company, I am gonna do whatever it takes to keep moving up. Even in a big corp like the one I currently work in, my thoughts are always, how do I put myself in position to run this dept, run this entire group, etc etc. I refuse to forever be a middle management figure... at least for now. That's not how I roll. I mean look at yourself in the mirror. Do you really want to do what you're doing now for the rest of your life?

In that sense, none of the four people that got let go seemed to be eager to become partner. Sure, my friend was committed to his work and loyal to the firm but I don't think he ever wants to be a partner there. I think the whole situation was handled extremely poorly but on the same token, the firm has no obligation to its people. Sometimes, I've heard people complain when they are let go that they were so loyal to the firm. I'm sorry all, but it's employment, not marriage. When push comes to shove, the company has no obligation to reciprocate the loyalty that you may feel you have given.

I'm not defending the firm for the way they handled it... but I would be lying if I said I didn't understand why they did what they did.


Riggstad said...

I'll never understand how or why some people don't get it.

"The Firm", or "The Company", or whatever ownership type of establishment there is is owned ad operated by people who built it with their hands sweat and blood.

Whether it was a day ago, a year ago, or 200 years ago. Someone has a personal stake. I will tell you this as well, they didn't do it to create jobs for people. they did it to make money.

Creating jobs, taking responsibility after having success is part of the equation, but in the end, they are going to do whats best for them.

Now, these types get so big that they have to hire very smart, very ambitious, very skilled, and very talented people to help run. I said hire. but these types usually can demand whatever they want so they also get ownership or a piece, as you put it.

Fuck this... its getting to long.

Fuel is gay

* you are a competitive person. trampling over people, friend or foe on the field of battle is part of the game. Get it done.

I'd fire my mother if I didn't think she was pulling her weight.

Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Riggs, to your last point, I would too.

jjok said...

wife is a part-time CPA now for an "almost Big 4" firm. Prior to that she spent almost 8 years in the Big 4/5/6.

I find it funny because we had the same discussion you are talking about. Before marriage and kids, she stressed she wanted to be a partner/director some day.

After going part time and moving away from the Big 4, that opinion has lacked, but I've been telling her time and time again to never never never ever say that she doesn't want to get promoted......
just funny to see someone post the same.

It's a funny biz, really. But it makes a lot of sense if you step back and look at it. One of the few models where you can see a solid career path if you choose it and work your ass off.

Her firm is going through layoffs right now, but it will be entirely staff and some seniors, no mgmt. All the Big 4 seem to be laying off yet recruiting the colleges just as hard as they have in the past. Kind of a weird.

Anyway, hope alls well with you Alan.

Schaubs said...

"The best way to move up in a company is to make yourself replaceable"

- unknown

Ever since I read that quote last year (can't remember where)it's been one of my things that I repeat to myself all the time. I feel that if you are not looking to move up, you'll just get passed by someone who is.

I see that you still didn't out your previous employer...



Anonymous said...

don't you mean irreplaceable?

Anonymous said...

maybe it was irresistable?