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Interview with Lance Jacob, Principal of Naden/Lean and Contributor to the Dental CPA Blog

Lance Jacob is the principal of the Naden/Lean CPA and Business Consultant firm, and one of the contributing authors of the Dental CPA Blog. Jacob began his career with Naden/Lean in 1991, and provides tax, accounting and consulting services for individuals and businesses, including dentists, other health care providers, and equine. In this refreshing and informative interview, Jacob works from his years of experience in lending real life advice to those who are entering the accounting profession. He relates this experience in a clear and many times, humorous way. Jacob states in a direct manner, “The biggest challenge was in translating what you learn in college to the ‘real world’.” The new professional will enjoy Lance Jacob’s clear view of the accounting profession from the inside out.

lance-jacobWhat event or series of events led you to pursue accounting or the study of accounting as a professional choice?

In my second year of college as biology major all of the fruit flies in my genetics assignment died when I accidentally gave them an overdose of ether. I knew then my chances of eventually becoming a doctor were going to be slim. I always found business interesting. I took a couple of accounting courses, enjoyed them and the rest is history.

Name 1 or 2 specific challenges you have faced in your accounting career and the steps you took to meet these challenges.

The biggest challenge was in translating what you learn in college to the “real world.” In my opinion college taught me the difference between debits and credits and some basic accounting concepts but I would say it wasn’t until my 3rd or 4th year of having a “real” job and working in real life situations that the light bulb went off and I started to understand what I was supposed to be doing. The constant changes in tax law and technology also provide challenges.

How would you advise an individual entering the accounting profession to proceed? What are the challenges, or obstacles that may be faced?

Try to get an internship. Maybe start in a job where you can be assigned to working on audits. That’s a great way to learn how an entire business (or industry) works and the relationships between the various components of financial statements. Working on an audit also provides insight on how a company is organized and how various departments are supposed to work together.

Can you give us an example of an interesting case or project that you have worked on and your role in helping to achieve a positive outcome?

I think tailoring reports to help clients analyze the health of their business or their practice in the case of a professional services organization is the most interesting part of accounting. Even though many think accounting is just working with numbers, the best accountants are creative in that they come up with ways of producing reports that allow clients to understand their business and why it can be good or bad that an expense is down or up more than usual.

In our case, as dental CPAs, we have designed reports that illustrate how certain expenses are directly related to the production of dentistry and how other expenses in a dental practice will be there regardless of whether the dentist sees 1 patient or 100. We have also been able to design tools for our clients to allow them to easily understand the difference between “profit” and “cash flow.”

If you could suggest a role model for a new accountant, who would it be and why?

I can’t think of any specific role models for new accountants. I would just stress the need to be able to adapt to new technology, stay current with changes in tax law and changes in accounting rules and be creative when approaching your clients’ problems. One of our founding partners told me early on in my career “Clients don’t pay us to put numbers on paper or in computer programs; they pay us to come up with solutions to their unique problems.”

As an accomplished author of a blog related to accounting, what advice would you offer to the new accountant concerning the role of social media in their profession?

That’s simple. Be able to back up what you say with facts. If you are going to put something in a blog or Tweet you need to research it to make sure it is true and makes it understandable for the layman. Also, keep your political views out of any conversation on legislation and how it affects your clients. Save political rants for family gatherings. Also be aware of how you write using social media since unlike an actual face to face conversation, it hard to determine someone’s “tone” from an e-mail or Tweet.

This is the last question and time for the inner accountant in you to break free. What is the key strength you bring to your career and how would you advise new accountants to mine their own strengths to further their careers.

I think the key strength I bring to my career is my work ethic. I don’t see that in many recent college graduates. Many of new hires want to work 9-5 Monday through Friday. Accounting in general, and public accounting in particular, have no set hours so you need to be prepared to put in the time necessary to get the job done (including evenings and weekends). While technology has made working the field of accounting a little more flexible there are still times you need to be available. You also need to be responsive to your clients. I am amazed at the number of clients who thank me just for returning a phone call. While our jobs may not be as critical as an ER doctor it is still important to let your clients know you are working for them and are being proactive on their behalf.

We wish to thank Lance Jacob for digging deep into his background and providing answers to the actual questions that the new professionals face as they enter the field. Jacob’s long career is a wonderful repository of information. You may visit the Dental CPA Blog to read his articles on accounting topics.