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The Importance of the Right Fit

The Importance of the Right Fit

March 5, 2013

By Russ Gambrel, CPA, Senior Consultant Fahrenheit Finance

Since “doing my time” in public accounting during the mid-1990s, there is one question that has followed me around wherever I go for the past 17 years.   In fact, I’ve probably been asked some variation of it 300 times or more.  It goes something like this:

“Russ, how on Earth are YOU an accountant”?

I laughed the first time my favorite college professor posed this query and I’m still amused by it to this day.    It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to pinpoint the hidden meaning.   Namely, I am not your textbook CPA.    I don’t dream in FASB.  I’ve never owned a pocket protector (although it seems like a perfectly logical and necessary device).   My skull houses both left and right cerebral hemispheres.    I’ve never wished a swift comeuppance upon any cheerleader or jock.   To be perfectly honest, my first two career choices -centerfield for the St Louis Cardinals and/or Rock Superstar- were only sidetracked by my comprehensive lack of musical and athletic talent.

So why do I love accounting?  It probably started in high school.   Where science offered nothing but an endless stream of inconclusive variables, accounting was black and white.   Working through my first case study kit –the one where you open a business, record the entries, go through an entire business cycle and end by closing the books- was the clincher.   I was hooked.  I recall racing through it at break-neck speed trying to be the first one in class to finish.    Seemingly everything netted to zero!   Thanks to Pi and all those pesky fractions, not even Math class could offer that!   The rest is history.   Accounting was the language of business and I wanted total fluency…even though I knew I didn’t fit the mold.

College and public accounting followed.   After my wife became a Naval officer, my career unfolded in a rather unique and fortunate way.   We moved to Rota, Spain and I became a Budget Director for the DOD.    In my spare time I taught finance and accounting classes for the University of Maryland- Europe.    It was during this time that I discovered my passion for accounting was equaled by a passion for team building and guiding a group of individuals to a defined goal.  The goal in this case being a final exam!    Lecturing to 30 students 6 hours a week also cured any lingering anxiety I had about public speaking.   If I was atypical before, teaching college accounting courses made the contrast even more pronounced.    If the perception of the average CPA was nerdy, introverted, head-down and lousy with people…well then, I was going rogue.

There was one more lesson I learned in Spain.  The pay of college instructors is so bad as to make it nearly indecipherable from volunteer work.  And yet it didn’t matter.  It was the most rewarding feeling I’d ever had; my first lesson in how compensation can be dwarfed by job satisfaction and making an impact.   It proved the old axiom that if you do what you love you will never work a day in your life.

All of this leads me to the point of finding the right fit.   And I’m not just talking about finding it for ourselves.  Going the extra mile to find it for your team is the investment that never stops paying dividends.   Seventeen years into my career, having experienced companies both big and small (and enormous), there is one compelling truth that runs through all.   People will stay in a not-so-great job if the company is a good fit and people will leave a great job if the opposite is true.  We should never forget this when there are roles to fill.

Russ joined Fahrenheit in 2012 as a senior business consultant and project manager bringing over 17 years of experience in project leadership, SEC reporting, auditing, accounting, IT systems and internal control design.  Russ is a former controller and university instructor, has served in finance and accounting roles internationally, and has extensive consulting experience in designing and implementing internal control environments, including S-Ox. Russ is a graduate of Baylor University with a BBA in Accounting and is currently completing a Management in Information Systems degree at the University of Maryland.

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