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Friday, June 20, 2014

Therapeutic Accounting: Defining Success


Success can be defined in many different ways. In business it is generally looked at in terms of dollars (profits or gross revenue). This is not a new issue. Many years ago, Henry Ford was quoted as saying, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”

Businesses should have a greater responsibility than just acquiring dollars. That certainly is not to say that dollars should be ignored, as income is what fuels the engine of business. Without making dollars a high priority, there would no way to afford the other measurements of success. Every business needs to define its own additional measurements that it wants to include when determining its level of success, but doesn’t limit it to dollars.

At our firm, I believe we have developed a culture of measuring our success using more than just dollars. We have invested countless financial resources and time to mentor our younger members in order to help make them successful. We have encouraged partners and others to get involved in the community to help those less fortunate. The partners have taken this path as individuals who are a part of our firm (not as the firm itself). We chose not to force anyone to do something that they do not have a personal interest in as it would be meaningless to the individual. We have spent many more dollars than our competition in order to make our firm a fun place to work, whether by caring pranks, parties and certainly by food (lots of it).

But even though Henry Ford’s quote was directed towards businesses, it certainly applies to individual lives as well. Success at a personal level can be measured in so many additional ways that I could never address them all in this short article. If success was only measured in dollars, what would you call a parent who sacrifices so much to raise or take care of their family; an individual who gives up a great deal of their free time to benefit a worthy cause; an individual who chooses an occupation that may not pay as well as other jobs but they help make a difference in this world?

As many of you who know me can attest, I have always described the earlier part of my life as unsuccessful. On a financial basis I did fine, but at what cost? My major failure was that I was not home to watch my children grow or be more supportive to my wife. Of course, at the time, I thought if I didn’t work extremely hard, I wouldn’t have been able to buy them all the things that I did, which internally gave me the permission to work even harder. My children told me when they were older that they would have preferred to have me be a bigger part of their young lives, even if it meant that they would have fewer things. I also failed at being a complete person. I did not make time for friends, relaxation, traveling or “working out.” I recognize that everyone needs to work harder when they are younger, but to what extent? And, when can you stop working that hard?

I still work VERY hard, but I make substantially more time for family, friends, travel, charity involvement, etc. I have learned what a balanced life means! And I recognize how much I have missed by not having lived one earlier in my life. The second part of my life has been much more successful as I can measure it on many fronts, not just financial. Not only do my family, friends and the charities benefit from this recognition, but more importantly, I DO.

Therapeutic Accounting®
Harvey Bookstein has more than 40 years of public accounting experience, and he specializes in estate planning, charitable giving, and dealing with financial issues relating to children, divorce and successions planning for businesses/wealth from one generation to the next. When dealing with these issues, Harvey developed a method he has registered as Therapeutic Accounting®. Harvey’s approach is to not only look at a particular business, financial or personal issue—but to look at the specific issue as part of the “big picture.”

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