November 11, 2021

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“Help Not Wanted” advising

Many businesses are struggling to hire, and I’ve suggested that that might be an opportunity for some accounting firms. I’ve also suggested that some businesses might need advice on vaccine mandates since employers are increasingly requiring them. 

The one open question is around the federal government mandate for employers with 100 or more employees. It’s currently tied up in courts, but experts advise being prepared rather than not.

Of course, there are other alternatives some people are considering:

Christie Thompson’s company, which sells and services semitrailers, is looking to fill a handful of open positions. But the challenge isn’t just finding qualified workers. Currently, 98 people work at the company. Adding two more employees would mean crossing the 100-person threshold […] set as [the] standard for compliance with a new rule requiring large companies to mandate coronavirus vaccines.

“As the person who’d be in charge of making all this work, it’d be a nightmare,” said Ms. Thompson, who runs human resources for Apex/Rentco Trailer Sales & Service, based in Jeffersonville, Ind. She estimates that three-quarters of the employees are unvaccinated.

Yeesh. If you have 100 employees and 75 of them aren’t vaccinated, imagine being the HR professional who has to tell those 75 people that they need to choose between: a) getting vaccinated or b) having a six-inch Q-tip shoved up their nose at least once a week.

This isn’t an unheard of predicament, however. Businesses have been dancing around the Affordable Care Act 50-employee threshold for years. Still. I don’t envy any business advisors who have to guide their clients through this. Suggesting a de facto hiring freeze in the hopes that the courts throw out the mandate seems like a risky proposition. And finding ways for the business to continue growing without hiring more employees sounds like a tough road. 

Whatever advice you give, this definitely qualifies as one of those “complex and scary” situations that we’ve talked about.

Niche ideas

One thing we occasionally talk about around here is niches that accounting firms can pursue. Some of these niches are more realistic than others, and if you’re open-minded enough, your niche can even be a complete paradox.

As we’ve discussed, the high net worth individual and/or family is a popular niche with many accounting firms, and for good reason. Solving financial and accounting problems for rich people can be a lucrative niche, even if you have to put up with a certain amount of unpredictable, eccentric, or obnoxious rich people behavior. It’s just a cost of doing business.

Then there’s the type of HNW client that breaks the mold in terms of wealth, unpredictability, eccentricity, and obnoxious behavior. It typically isn’t the type of client you have to handle yourself because the scale of the wealth and unpleasantness is beyond what one person could deal with. Call it the cartoonish mega billionaire (CMB) niche. I have to imagine Howard Hughes inspired an early variation of the CMB firm.

These days, your basic strategy would be to court the kind of client that seemingly makes massively consequential financial decisions on a whim… and on social media:

Twitter users said Elon Musk should sell 10% of his Tesla Inc. stock, a stake valued at about $21 billion, after the chief executive polled them and pledged to abide by the outcome of the vote.

Voters backed the share sale by a wide margin, with roughly 58% in favor of a sale and 42% opposed, according to the polling data posted on Twitter. More than 3.5 million votes were cast.

This move would of course trigger a massive tax event, which is fine because it’s already public knowledge that Elon Musk will have a massive tax event. This just seems to add a dash of social media gimmickry that underpins most of what Elon Musk does. The money he saves by not having a personal social media team might be worth another half-dozen financial advisors.

Anyway, as I write this, we now know that Elon Musk sold billions worth of Tesla this week, including a portion on Monday that was part of a 10b5-1 plan. For the 10b5-1 plan at least, it is conventional, prudent, and quite the opposite of what people have come to expect from Elon Musk. So even the most cartoonish of mega billionaires listens to reason. And if you run a cartoonish mega billionaire practice, I suspect you’re used to this sort of thing by now. 

Fresh from Gusto

  • Company exemptions and applicable taxes now visible in Gusto Pro. You can now view a client’s applicable taxes and company exemptions, and customize the view to better suit their workflow. Simply log into Gusto Pro, go to the Clients tab, and click on Client Details.
  • My colleague Jaclyn Anku wrote about winning your first three People Advisory clients.
  • If you missed Gusto Next, check out this recap from my colleague Will Lopez.


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Caleb Newquist Caleb is Editor-at-Large at Gusto. In 2009, he became the founding editor of Going Concern, the one-of-a-kind voice on the accounting profession, serving in the role for 9 years. Prior to Going Concern, Caleb worked as a CPA for nearly 6 years in New York and Denver. He lives in Denver with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.
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