success secrets revealed 

call me before you do anything: the art of accounting


by edward mendlowitz, cpa

lessons learned the hard way – so you don’t have to.
more than 150 hard-earned secrets to success.
delivered with wit, wisdom, and street-wise savvy.

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over 150 secrets of success revealed.

lifelong learning is both a hallmark and a habit of a great professional, and a coda enshrined in professional standards.

in call me before you do anything: the art of accounting, ed mendlowitz shares a lifetime of lessons learned – lessons in professional practice, and lessons in life and character.

they are the lessons tax and accounting professionals are learning the hard way every day. but ed has already learned those lessons and he shares them here, so others don’t have to. as he has through his life as a leader of the profession, ed shares what he knows, what he thinks, and what he’s seen – with generosity, wisdom, and wit.

a second-generation accountant himself, ed started his education working for his father, “pushing the pencil,” as he might say, doing the hard work that teaches the fundamentals of solid professional skills and the standards of integrity and ethics that inform and inspire to this day.

with candor and humor, we learn as much from ed’s mistakes and setbacks as we do from his triumphs and achievements. we learn from the moment he got fired from one of his first jobs. and we learn from the time he won a high-stakes deal for a client in an inter-continental negotiation that was fraught with brinkmanship and suspense. we learn from the people ed learned from. and we learn how every day presents a new opportunity to learn to be better – a better professional, and a better person.

– from the foreword by the publisher


over 400 pages. comprehensive & in-depth.

more than 150 hard-earned lessons, practical insights, and straight-from-the-shoulder pieces of advice, each drawn from a lifetime of personal experience and delivered in bite-sized nuggets (partial list of chapters).

  • a cpa looks back across the generations
  • learning to delegate: slow is faster
  • the making of a consultant
  • consulting
  • call me before you do anything
  • perception becomes reality
  • prenuptial encounter
  • giving 20 percent
  • not such a lateral move
  • now you are starting to work
  • in a time long
  • blown covenants
  • why my firm merged
  • roger is my only client
  • obsessed leadership
  • what consulting is
  • billing methods
  • be a sounding board for your clients
  • kennedy’s acceptance speech
  • “boring” continuing
  • “wrong” type of continuing
  • the vanishing write-up
  • employees need to speak up
  • working for a putz
  • employees have better memories than bosses
  • my job history
  • understanding the dynamics of a situation
  • secret five-year plan
  • my boss hated the client
  • you must push the pencil
  • bias removal
  • am i happy?
  • hot shot sales manager is not such a hot shot
  • high fees should be a client’s goal
  • how i owned a printing company and restaurant
  • how i got a mercedes as a fee
  • becoming an expert in irs collections
  • ask stupid questions early
  • break-even analysis
  • staff person was too smart for practical issues
  • my success formula: e=fs4uh
  • start with the cash
  • saving a business
  • to save a business, plan the details
  • the background to saving a business
  • referral from an adversary
  • lost a client to an accounting firm with cheaper fees
  • my first thought is to never turn down business
  • growing with a client
  • why we ‘kill’ to get partnership returns out quickly
  • being the one person the client can absolutely trust
  • my ‘brand’ is the exciting history of accounting
  • meeting accounting’s top historians
  • getting bonuses from clients
  • top 10 regrets
  • top 10 game changers
  • advising cheapskates
  • advertisements for law firms and medical practices
  • people who hold themselves back by holding back others
  • i am an accountant because of clients like stanley
  • retaining staff
  • testifying before congress
  • where time-based fees were not equitable
  • boosting a fixed fee substantially
  • que es bookkeeping?
  • write-ups and concentration
  • upselling
  • auditor’s mindset
  • cross-selling beyond your comfort zone
  • clients that outgrow you
  • time-based pricing
  • 100th column and more opportunities for readers
  • creating a cross-selling culture
  • reverse value billing
  • overpaying taxes does not keep clients up at night, but poor
  • controls do
  • i try to not let poor internal controls keep me awake
  • understanding investments in bonds
  • advice to someone starting out in accounting
  • most business clients must use an accountant, but they don’t have to use you
  • practice management information requests
  • accounting firm business
  • 20 best practices for training and retaining staff
  • staying in
  • annual staff evaluations
  • what did mr. ruben do
  • the man who went on ‘maternity’
  • recoupment of staff training costs
  • retaining staff – follow-up ideas
  • raising tax client awareness of additional
  • tax season is supposed to get better
  • making more money
  • impossible clients
  • getting in on the ground floor of sustainability
  • one hour a year since
  • a tale of two clients – one rich and one
  • the ceo didn’t know
  • parents fighting with
  • tax season is over – what to do now
  • sustainability conference
  • the stalemate between parents and children
  • i lost a client because i did not return her shoebox
  • someone has to be the boss in a family business
  • cpas who go to work for a client
  • cpas who leave public accounting
  • why cpas leave public accounting
  • top 10 accountant movie roles
  • frank’s term is over
  • my wife asked, “what do i do if you get killed
  • family tree of clients
  • more on cpas who leave public accounting
  • shirts for staff
  • avoid the appearance of assuming a responsibility
  • making sonny look good
  • becoming a specialist – types of specialties
  • becoming a specialist – how to do it
  • why map programs are essential
  • map books offer a treasure trove of advice
  • giving clients the best you’ve got
  • the future of the small firm
  • ‘cpa firm grows prosperous by heeding its own advice’
  • buying a practice from an estate
  • getting started with the first person i trained
  • swearing-in address to new cpas
  • the gap in sam’s growth
  • trying to sell a practice led to more business
  • selling something clients must have and don’t want to buy
  • working with fixed fees

by the renowned master of the profession.

edward mendlowitz, cpa, is a partner at withumsmith+brown, pc, cpas. he is on the accounting today’s top 100 influential people list. he is the author of 26 books, including “how to review tax returns,” co-written with andrew d. mendlowitz, published by, and “managing your tax season, third edition,” published by the aicpa. ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at

art of accounting is a continuing series where ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues and that he hopes will encourage students to enter his great profession. ed welcomes practice management questions and calls from students (but not for jobs).

call me before you do anything: the art of accounting