The Good and Bad of Working with Millennials in the Accounting Field

First of all, my advice to my children was always find something you love to do for a living, become good at it, and the money will follow. I never pressed accounting or tax on my kids. About two years ago, I was supposed to represent a client before the IRS in Miami, which is about 4 ½ hours from where I live and work. The revenue agent (RA) set a date and time for us to meet. However, as per usual, I never got written confirmation of the appointment. Understand, because Miami is so far away, I had to make arrangements for a place to sleep.

I called the RA at least 15 times, getting voicemail every day, leaving my contact info to confirm the appointment. This was two weeks leading up to the audit. I never got written confirmation of the audit and never got a call from the RA, until the day the audit was supposed to happen confirming the appointment. By then it was too late. I inform the RA of every measure I had taken to confirm, etc., and she was NOT happy that I was not coming. She and her boss were coming from Tampa to Miami to conduct the audit. Tampa is about the same distance from Miami as Orlando, where I am at.

This audit was supposed to be a two day audit. It was the middle of tax season, and because the appointment was never confirmed, I didn’t make any arrangements, and did not bother driving all those miles. Later that night, around 8 am, my oldest son Gregory and I are sitting there watching TV, and my cell rings. I pick it up, knowing it is the IRS. This time it is the RA’s manager who made the trip to Tampa as well. Having represented thousands of taxpayers through the years, I know what I can get away with and what I can’t.

I put the call on speaker, and this manager starts laying into me, telling me he is going to do this and that, like I am some taxpayer that doesn’t know my client’s rights. So, I lay into him. Telling him that if he going to sit there and try to stomp on my client’s rights, the only way this audit was happening was with a subpoena. Now he was yelling at me, so I matched him and was yelling at him. My son is in the same room trying not to laugh out loud so the manager will hear him. The call ends, and my son finally loses it. I then explain why it got to the level it did. My son then said, “I want to do that for a living.” My son is 17 at the time, and I don’t think much of it.

He begins college the next year, and he takes Accounting I, and declares his major as Accounting. So, I offer to let him work in the office as an intern, starting at the lowest position and he’ll have to work his way up.

Now we all know that accounting is probably the most conservative industry there is. I am Generation X, when I came into the industry, the firm I worked for was the only one with email and a website, then in 2003 we went paperless well before anyone else did. I like to think that I am at least five steps ahead of anyone else in this industry. I don’t conform to the old school way to make money in accounting and how to run an accounting business. That being said, before I was on my own I was a senior partner in another firm. I had ideas everyday, and they got turned down all of the time. I tell every employee that I hire that I don’t know it all, and if they have an idea, let’s talk about it.

We have a Social Media presence on FaceBook, and Twitter, so my son’s idea is let’s go to Snapchat, and Instagram. I have no idea what these platforms are, but I agree, and put Belsis, my wife and partner, and Gregory in charge of Social Media. They form a team for Social Media, and off they go. I rarely post on Social Media, it all them. It turns out fine, so I’m happy.

One thing I was not expecting was having to teach my millennial son basic office skills and etiquette. Why they don’t have a class like this in High School is beyond me. So I realize real quick a few things about Gregory, first of all he is smart as a whip, so what I am about to say is not meant to say he is stupid, just ignorant of how an office functions.

First of all we have Microsoft Office 365. My office is big, and I communicate with my employees through an app that comes with 365 called Skype for Business, which allows you to IM your team members. If you have to show an employee something visually, you just show them your screen on your computer, and visually teach them what you need to teach them. Easy as pie. However, millennials have no concept of an IM. They communicate through text messages or various text apps. If they want to visually show you something, they use the FaceTime function on their iPhone. This annoys me to no end. I don’t give my cell number to clients because, I get over 350 emails a day, countless phone calls at the office, FaceBook messages, Tweets, you name it, there are just too many ways to get to me. I give my cell to very few clients, because I just want that one thing for me.

Gregory spends his first month at the office blowing up my cell phone. I try to show him Skype for Business, and so does his mother, but he’s not having it. Finally, I have to get tough with him and tell him I will not answer texts, and to contact me through Skype, so he sort of learns that program.

Then what blew me away, was he had no concept of email. I mean 80% of all communications from clients or potential clients are handled through email. So my wife Belsis takes an entire day, to set up his email, and show him how to use it. Email is all hit or miss with him.

So the day comes when he is ready to learn write up. So, I take this on personally. In all the years that I’ve done this I have a special way of doing write up, if I have to do it. First of all, I paid my dues doing write up years ago, and I hire staff to do it now. I check their work, and it goes out to the client. So, I’m teaching him all of my shortcuts, and everything else, which in hindsight was my mistake. I just confuse the kid, and I get frustrated with him. So I have a staff accountant that desperately wants to learn tax, so I make a deal with him, train Gregory, and I will teach him tax.

Now back to how conservative accounting is, everyone in the office has access to the schedule for the day. I am a pretty cool boss. I don’t care if the employees wear jeans, shorts, baseball hats, whatever. My feeling is the more comfortable you are, the more work you will get done. HOWEVER, on days when we have in office appointments, I dress in an expensive Italian Suit, the rest of the staff wears professional clothing as well. Gregory, who barely knows email, doesn’t realize that Outlook comes complete with a calendar. We have an in office appointment. Everyone is dressed up, and Gregory strolls in with ripped jeans and an AC/DC shirt. I send him home for the day, give him $200, tell him to go to the thrift store, and get four dress shirts and four dress slacks, some dress shoes, and a belt.

Working with millennials can be challenging, but all in all, they have some really good ideas, and it is good to shake this industry up a little bit here and there.