You Never Stop Pitching with Gene Marks

In This Episode

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What is was like


Anybody who says they wanted to be a CPA when they were in high school is destined to become a CPA LOL

Went to Central High School (Magnet) in Philadelphia.

Had an interest in business, but was editor of the school paper.

Went to Lehigh University.

His dad said get a CPA, because it opens you up to doing anything in business.

The world is becoming more and more of a technical world.

I’ve always been a fan of getting a “license” like a state license.

You can go into the MLB and do statistics on where to place players.

Being a CPA was well regarded 30 years ago, and it is JUST as well regarded now.

One of Gene’s kids is a CPA now.

The average age of a startup entrepreneur is over the age of 40. We always hear about the 20 somethings who do this, but that’s not reality. They are being started by people who are seasoned.

Your idea is not going to be that original. It’s probably a variation of an existing idea.

Go work for someone in that industry, and learn before you start.

More great advice from Gene’s dad.

Gene was not an accounting major. He was an economics major. He minored in accounting, and took all of his accounting credits pass / fail. He just needed to pass, everyone else was working way too hard!

Gene interviewed with what was then the big 8 firms. As an economics major he stood out.

Gene worked at KPMG right away, for 9 years, and loved it. He was part of their professional development group.

Gene tells a story of how his job was to count cash at their banking clients.

Gene wrote for the paper in college.

He went to London School of Economics.

After KPMG he decided he wanted to go out on his own.

His dad was trying to create the “world’s worst accounting software.”

The business model was that if the software couldn’t do it, “Gene can do it.”

It was a good thing the accounting software didn’t work. It was not Y2K compliant.

So they started reselling other software for business, like CRM software, and Great Plains.

That’s when they started making a little money.

Somewhere around 2005, Gene started writing to relieve stress from dealing with angry clients of software products he’d sold them.

He pitched an idea – “The Penny Pincher’s Almanac” to their local Philadelphia Business Journal.

A Bi-weekly column by a business owner and a CPA on ways to save money in your business.

Experience etc.. is all really important, but anybody who has succeeded at anything, “got a break” at some point.

Turns out they Philadelphia Business Journal was looking for something just like this.

The key here is Gene took the initiative and pitched them on it.

Gene has been writing daily for the Washington Post for 3 years. Now they are cutting all outside contributors.

Once Gene learned of this he went into major pitch mode.

Now he’s writing for The Guardian.

Gene has had to pitch his entire life!

You never stop pitching.

You have to be perseverant about it.

Erica hit it right on the head here.

The people you are pitching just have so much going on, that you have to constantly remind them that you’re there and ready.

What about the dark times?

Cash flow and Accounts Receivable issues had definitely happened.


Things are never as good as they seem, and things are never as bad as they seem.


Gene goes to the batting cage or the driving range. Get a night’s sleep and revisit the problem the next day.

You’ll be surprised at what you can do when you look at the problem with fresh eyes, and having rested.

At one time he was short on cash and he screwed up some work for a client. The client kept asking questions about it because he could see that it didn’t look right.

Gene was denying it, and dodging calls.

He walked away with a big lesson, that if he wants to do something he should always do it well, or don’t do it at all.

You change your state!

Erica will take a day trip, or she’ll go for a motorcycle ride.

When she’s on her motorcycle, she is forced to be in that moment. She can’t afford to focus on the other stuff.

This buys her some space.

Then she comes back fresh.

Am I manic?

Business is Manic. It’s like that!

Gene liked the idea that I see a therapist. I’ve seen him for 20 years (since I got sober).

It’s very hard to balance your personal and professional life.


What it’s like today

You can be a “nerd” about a lot of things

The CPA profession is a big umbrella of services – accounting, and technology, and advice services.

It’s about coming up with solutions.

So much is being automated.

The typical tax preparation CPA cannot compete with the AI that has access to all kinds of data and the ability to analyze that data at much greater speed.

Blockchain will substantially automate the Audit process.

Some verification will still need to be done.

Good CPAs will turn around and use this information to advise clients.

We shouldn’t fear it. We should be looking towards it.


Let’s talk about indexes as economic indicators

Back in 2008 – 2009 we were seeing a recession.

Phillies were winning the world series.

Stock market was tanking.


The Baltic Dry Index

This is a shipping / freight index that measures the cost of shipping through the Baltic Sea. This is one of the world’s largest shipping lanes.

When this index is going up, that means freight prices are going up which means we are looking at an uptick in shipping and worldwide trade in general.

If you look at this index leading up to the recession, you can see that this predicted the 2008 recession.

The Institute of Supply Managers – looks at a purchasing index.

This is an organization made up of the world’s most boring people – purchasing managers.

The institute surveys these people to see what their purchasing is going to look like. This gives you an idea of where purchasing is going.


The Expedia Index

Look at activity about travel. How many people are going to the site? Is travel on the rise or decline? When times are good.


Alan Greenspan (former chairman of the fed)

His favorite economic indicator is the mens underwear index.

When times are good, we’re buying new underwear.


RV Sales indicate that people are spending money on leisure.

There are some good economists to follow:

American Enterprise Institute – Mark Perry

Get his newsletter

The Calculated Risk Blog

As accountants we want to follow these things so we can advise our clients.


Divorce rates?

Guess what? When times are bad people don’t get divorced! They wait until there is money to divide 🙂

What about the current trade war brewing between the US and China?

What does a small business owner do?

Listen to learn.

Don’t take a wait and see attitude.

Best thing you can do is communicate price sensitivities to your clients right now. If you will be affected by the trade war, you will need to increase your prices. Do it early, and do it slowly.

Look at cutting overhead. Run your business like you’re in a recession. The more you can increase margins, the less you have to increase your prices.

Where is Gene?

Just follow him on Twitter – @GeneMarks

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