It amazes me to see the variety of programs on television these days. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d be watching cooking contests, semi-trucks racing across the frozen tundra or live activity in the operating rooms of certain hospitals. One show that has about run its course features poker contestants. While watching these poker tournaments, I hear a phrase that has registered with me. That phrase is, “All in!”. The contestant places 100% of his or her tabled assets into the game, essentially taking the risk of winning big or totally losing. As I reflect on the concept of “All in!”, I would never gather my net worth and gamble it on a poker table. But reflection does confirm that I have been “All in!” in the past.
In 1978 I joined Mike Swaim in Spartanburg at his public accounting practice. After the first tax season, things seemed to go well and my association with the firm changed from employee to partner. I basically told Mike that as far as my accounting career and association with his business, I was “All in!”. The very next tax season I faced a situation that challenged my “All in!” call. At the time we were a partnership and we virtually emptied the checking account to pay ourselves each month. January 1980 came to a close and there was nothing left in the checkbook. My house payment was still due. My wife and children still needed to be fed, but I had committed to Mike to be “All in!”. February quickly passed and again the checkbook had nothing left to distribute. The beginning our “tax season” had great financial demands to prepare for the busy season. Revenues following the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays had dwindled. Our cash was more than tight. After paying our bills, including our employees, we had two months of terrible cash flow. I will truly confess that I had no intentions of abandoning Mike or the firm. I would make the sacrifices and face the situation no matter how challenging it might become. I had accepted two teaching positions at night to help with some financial relief, but I was (and continue to be) “All In!”. History will show that I made a great decision relative to my professional associations with Mike as our firm today has been greatly blessed.
I am not sure what lessons can be learned by this experience. But it is rare that we are successful when we do not give our total efforts to our pursuits. Today’s younger CPAs may or may not be willing to be “All in!”. But those that place their efforts wisely will surely look back some day and reflect joyfully on their decision. I would suggest that one never knows the future, but when the time comes, place your efforts upon character, loyalty and commitment. There are other positive attributes, but I believe a wise decision comes from focusing on the long-term issues versus the short-term noise.
For now, enjoy those reality TV shows. And when it is time for your “All in!”, be wise beyond your years.
Blogger: Charles ‘Eddie’ Brown, CPA