Sometimes, You Have to Get On an Airplane, by Joel Block

Unfortunately, we can’t accomplish everything by telephone, email, webinar, TeleSeminar, text or Skype. There was a great United Airlines TV commercial in the 1990’s with a CEO passing out airline tickets to his team telling them to get “face to face” with the customers once in a while.

Some years ago, I found myself in a similar situation, up against such a frustrating problem, that I finally got on an airplane to go and solve the problem in person. The result was shocking, and fast.

I started my career in the CPA business in the mid 1980s, when I worked for PriceWaterhouse (now called PwC). The last account I worked on at PwC was a giant syndicator. My job, with an army of other guys, was to convert the books and records of over 500 partnerships into tax returns. The accounting was horrible and the tax work was tedious but I loved reading the partnership agreements. So I left the firm and went straight into real estate syndication but along the way, I became a CPA in Colorado but I gave up my license after 10 years because I didn’t practice accounting anymore.

At one point in time, it became advantageous for me to reactivate my CPA license. As an Expert Witness, having a CPA license adds to my credibility.

Even though I worked for PwC 25 years ago, the HR department sent a letter to the California State Board of Accountancy indicating that I did work for the firm, but the CPAs at the firm who I worked for have all either left or by now, retired. Therefore, no one could vouch for the work I did. Unfortunately, the State Board of Accountancy wanted a CPA to sign off on my hours worked at the firm.

I was unable to get a CPA at PwC vouch for me and the State Board of Accountancy wouldn’t budge. This went on for over two years and I couldn’t bring it to resolution although there was one woman at the State Board that been overseeing my case and the back and forth of our discussions.

One day I had enough and I decided the only way to break the log jam was to get on an airplane, go to Sacramento and physically show up at the offices of the State Board of Accountancy. I didn’t have an appointment but I knew they were open.

When I arrived in Sacramento, I called the State Board of Accountancy. As expected, the person that I had been dealing with was in the office. Not having an appointment would normally be a terrible idea but showing up unannounced seemed like a better tactic in this situation. So I showed up.

I explained the problem to her in person one last time – that no CPA at PwC would sign off on my hours, but their HR Department had done so, and it just didn’t seem reasonable that I should be penalized because I wasn’t able to find a CPA willing to sign off on my hours.

When I explained the situation in person, it seemed to make more sense to the woman who was working with me. Maybe she was more focused on the problem because I was standing in front of her. She went and got her manager who ran the initial licensing unit, and after I explained my story to her, it wasn’t five minutes before she signed her name on an approval slip and attached it to my file. A problem that I had been working on for over two years was resolved in less than 15 minutes.

There’s a big lesson here. Sometimes you have to just get on an airplane and deal with the problem head-on and face-to-face. If you don’t do that, sometimes you’ll drown in your problems for years on end. If you deal with people that are far away or if you sometimes get in the habit of talking to people only by telephone or other electronic media, you’re missing the boat. Sometimes you just have to change things up, get on an airplane, and go make it happen. It worked for me. Maybe this advice will help you.

When you come to CreditScape, I’ll be talking about change, including changing your mindset about how you do your job and approach credit. As the credit profession (and the whole world, for that matter) has changed with technology, attending an event like CreditScape will help arm you with tools to do your job better. Visit www.CreditScapeConference.com for more information. I hope to meet you there.

Joel Block is a business advisor and long-time venture capitalist and hedge fund manager (gobbledygook for “professional investor”) who is based in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. He will speak on Managing Change in Your Credit Department at CMA’s Spring CreditScape Summit on April 4-5, 2018. For more information about the event, visit www.CreditScapeConference.com.