Many accountants will not work with doctors. Doctors as a group, it is said, can be difficult in the best of times, demanding an instant response to their every whim. I disagree completely.
My firm has serviced accounts for doctors nearly from day one. The value doctors provide society is vital and I have always felt they deserve extra latitude. The stress level doctors face daily supersedes anything I deal with. If I make a mistake, money is at risk; when a doctor makes a decision, lives are at risk.
My personality meshes well with the mindset doctors have. As a result I have been a value added service to my doctor clients. Many hair-raising situations were resolved successfully because I understood the doctor’s situation and was able to integrate their issue into the problem solving formulas of my firm. It also allowed my doctor clients to get very rich.
Getting It Done
One of my first doctor clients has stayed with me all these years. When we first met he was reluctant to hire a small firm with a young owner. He needed someone responsive. After a short talk he decided I was worth the risk.
The situation of our good doctor included two jobs. He worked at two clinics at once because working 80 hours a week offers a young man way too much free time to dilly dally. Income was generous for our doctor. But our story is not about money today, at least not all of it.
Working at two clinics should have filled every available minute of time. Unfortunately there is this really stupid thing called vacation time and weekends. With a few spare seconds at hand, our good doctor found excitement in researching a medication already on the market. Within a few years he was the expert on the therapy, even more so than the company that produced the medication!
Research requires quiet time. Our doctor built an awesome office in his home to continue his research. The pharmaceutical company by now hired him as a consultant. As our doctor suspected, there were several additional beneficial uses to the said medication. My firm, by providing back office support, was an integral part of bringing these additional indications to market. I was part of the team making the world a better place. My head swelled a quarter of an inch.
Three full time jobs was the breaking point for our doctor. One clinic job was eliminated; at the other hours were curtailed. Research was getting intense and it was consuming all available time. My office invoiced the pharmaceutical company for the time the doctor put into researching and testing their medication for multiple additional indications. Soon I was also knowledgeable on the medication involved.
Working Beyond Home
Working from home is the greatest thing. Unfortunately too many distractions can occur. The wife and kids can pop in any time they want and no matter how hard you try you can still hear some of the activity going on around the house. It can be hard to concentrate.
It was time to move the business out of the home. The clinic jobs were now history. Our doctor now consulted for several firms, including the clinics he previously worked for. He also filled in when the need was pressing for a while.
An office building wasn’t the best choice. He didn’t have clients the way most businesses have clients. His clients were few and scattered around the planet. He was on the road endlessly, traveling to Europe and Washington D.C. frequently. He also worked with firms in Asia and traveled there several times.
It was a unique business that needed a unique accountant advising him. In the end he did move the business out of the home. He bought a beautiful home in Neenah, Wisconsin with some acreage. Our doctor now had the quiet time he needed to do his job better than ever before.
When research got intense he could sleep there overnight. When he needed to recharge his mind he could spend time walking among the apple trees on his land. Good health requires exercise so our good doctor did some work around the place from time to time as a form of therapy.
It worked well and always has. The doctor used the office until recently until he moved to a better location. He has since reached full retirement age and promises he will slow down soon, but he keeps getting requests for help from pharmaceutical firms. He has since helped bring several medications to market and increased the number of indications for use.
Some Doctor in Us You and I Have
Retirement is a misnomer. Just when you think you have it made life throws so many interesting opportunities your way you can’t possible get them all done. Full retirement leads to a side gig; the side gig starts earning some coin; then the side gig takes over, earning more than you did when you were working; then the side gig fills a large part of your time and you need a quiet place to study and think.
The earlier you start at retirement the worse it is. I went straight to retirement, if you will, by starting my own seasonal part-time job from day one. Then life screwed it up. You don’t run a sideline tax prep service without massive additional opportunities dropping in your lap.
Like our doctor, I had an office in the home when I first prepared tax returns. The first year I remodeled an unused bedroom. It took one tax season to outgrow that.
For the next year I remodeled the entire basement except for a small portion for the laundry area and utilities. I laid a new sidewalk around the side of the house to a back entrance. This worked fine for about four years.
By the time I had five years in my client list had grown to around 800 and I had employees. April 15th had cars lined up and down both sides of the street around my home for two blocks. The city politely recommended I get an office outside the home. (They were polite, but I was pushing the limits of the city code for running a business out of my home.)
I hated moving out of the house. If I couldn’t sleep I could always go downstairs for a few hours and knock out a few returns. In the middle of the day when it got slow I could go upstairs and take a nap. It was a great arrangement. Unfortunately, my success removed that option.
I bought the office building I am currently in the same year and moved my practice. The good news about owning an office building on a main highway is many more clients. My client list exploded to over 2,000 in a few years. I was busy, but it was seasonal, so I lived with it.
It is no secret I love writing. I also love research. The doctor and I had something in common.
Over the years my firm maintained a fairly large client list and a good number of employees. My firm expanded services to include bookkeeping and payroll, something I only did in a minor way prior. Consulting, public speaking and writing assignments played a larger role, too.
Several years ago I had this great idea for a blog. I didn’t know a thing about building a blog but was determined to give it a shot. I secured the url and hooked up with Bluehost. And there it sat; a great idea living in limbo.
I was still publishing on multiple other platforms and writing for other firm and publications. There is something about pushing nouns up against verbs in a variety of ways that is addicting. And still the dream of a “real” blog, a “real” website written and run by yours truly, was intoxicating. It was an itch I had to scratch.
A few years ago I met Pete, the venerable Mr. Money Mustache. The blog had to start now! I broke rank and paid to get it done.
Like any new business it can occupy a serious percentage of waking hours. If you love doing it you tend to do it a lot.
I have an office in the home. It has been overrun by some of the animals who roam my house. I call them the wife and kids.
I read and write wherever I can find a spot. Distractions limit the value of any personal brainstorming session or reading time, however.
At my “real” office I always promise myself some quiet time to read and study. It never works. The phone rings, a client comes in and sees my car parked outside, or an employee has a “quick question”. After the 904th interruption I may as well set the book down and open my door.
Reading and studying are a major part of what I do. I am good at what I do not only because I have done a lot of it for a long time, but because I compulsively researched and read on the subject matter. And quiet time is required to increase those skills.
(I’m just going to come out and say it. I quit! No, no, no. Sorry, my fantasy barged in.)
No, I am now considering the same step the doctor did. I started looking for a home to buy near my office where I can go a day or two a week and just read, study, learn, research, write.
The good news is that real estate is fairly cheap yet in NE Wisconsin. There are several very nice homes for under $150,000 within walking distance of my main office. I am considering it, doing what the doctor did.
Sometimes you need to get out of the house and into a different environment where you can let the creative juices flow uninterrupted. It is a magical place. I will keep the location a secret. If life intrudes into this sanctuary it loses all value.
Sometimes it is healthy to get out of the house and go to the office.
Note: I originally published this post in early June of 2017. I’m updating today (September 27, 2021) because my doctor client mentioned in this post struggled with depression and anxiety, heightened by retirement. Earlier this month he died. Suicide is suspected. I dedicate this post to him. He will be missed.