I looked around the room at the people I was working with and said, “I can’t be them.” I had just graduated from the University of Miami with a BBA in Accounting and landed my first professional job. And then it happened. I realized I enjoyed studying accounting but not doing accounting.
My first job at the CPA firm was write up work and bank reconciliations. You have to start somewhere, and this was a great place to start. I learned the basics of accounting and tax by posting the monthly checks to a journal.
Prepare the bank reconciliation. Post the journal to a general ledger. Then move on to the next month and do it all over again.
Necessary Learning Is Difficult
When I finished the 12 month posting of the journal totals to Dr. Zuckerman’s general ledger, I created a trial balance. Then I had to make adjusting journal entries to the trial balance which included things like depreciation of equipment.
I then came to a final trial balance and created financial statements. Finally, I prepared the tax returns.
This was all done on paper spreadsheets. Check by check, line by line, total by total using an electric adding machine. It was grueling work, but I learned accounting from the ground up.
Something I really didn’t pick up in school was that learning fundamentals of a profession can be an arduous task. But fundamentals must be learned.
After doing the books and tax returns manually for small businesses, I got pretty good at it. But I started to think, There has got to be a better way.
Looking for a Better Way
That’s when I saw a machine gathering dust in the corner of the work room. It sat behind the copier. When I took the dust cover off, I discovered a paper tape machine.
I asked my boss about it, and he said it was used for doing write up work but nobody could figure it out. I thought, Maybe this is the better way.
After hours, I read the machine’s documentation. I found out it was an input device which connected to a service bureau. I learned to type all the transactions into the machine which poked holes into a paper tape.
When I was finished typing a year’s worth of transactions, I would dial up the service bureau, couple the handset to the machine and feed in the paper tape.
Within three days, I would receive the journals, general ledger and financial statements. Clearly a better way. This “automation” got my boss’s attention.
Right at that time IBM came calling on the CPA firm pitching what they described as “The first affordable small business computer.” It was a mini computer called the System/32. We set an appointment to see this new computer and learn what we could do with it from an entrepreneur and CPA, Richard Brock. They flew him from Mobile, Alabama to Miami just to pitch us.
My boss loved it and bought the computer and the application software.
Discovering True Purpose
Then began a journey of long days and nights trying to get the computer and software to actually work. Richard and I spent hours on the phone as he talked me through programming changes to fix bugs and workflows.
It became clear we were learning together. These were the early days of small business computing and automation. I loved it.
I found my purpose. Practicing accounting through automation.
After three months of Richard coming to Miami combined with hours on the phone together, he asked me to join him in his business. He told me I was the only customer who figured out how to use the software.
I went from being an accountant to becoming a partner in a software house which automated accounting offices. It turned out to be a great partnership with a successful exit. Which led to a wonderful management career and then angel investing. And it all ended in a life-long friendship.
You just never know where your first professional job will take you!