Many of us old-timers have over a period of time made a number of mistakes, got into areas counterproductive to our profession, and feel less satisfied at the end of the day. Most of us blundered through professional life learning from mistakes that we have made several times and have also repeated the same.
Though we are expected to be the financial trustees to the world/ country, belonging to a "noble profession” we feel inadequate, frustrated by the ground realities. Though we are professionals with limitations as every human being, clients expect us to be experts at all laws/ regulations and want the job done on priority. Surprisingly at times when it comes to payment at times last in the queue.
Some of us do not look forward to a wonderful day of service, contribution, and empowerment in the morning, some seldom and some have doubts. The younger professionals feel impatient that they do not get the rewards for being smart and fast.
The possibility of frustration leading to stagnation and disempowerment is real.
It is fact that most of us were conditioned on negativity (ingratitude- we see complaints everywhere)- "you should go for another line, you cannot pass the tough exam, after CA you will just be a broker, I know many in this line, how can you succeed with no godfathers….” To guide to the limited extent of my knowledge and experience this series is started. Readers may be amazed that most of what I share may be known to them already. Shiv Khera says- winners do not do anything different- they just do it differently. Reading motivational books and IMPLEMENTING AND CONTINUING what you started is what will bring us results which would make you initially known, then well known, then a celebrity, and finally a legend.
In the 9th Standard, I chose to do CA though my science marks were good due to my rebellious and independent nature. I was told it was a noble profession. I joined the course and came to know that my accounting absorption was pretty low not that other subjects were much better. The handwriting was also terrible. Memory to date has been a very big challenge. This year I am starting to ensure I improve my memory- a bit late in life though.
A wonderful exposure to audits from 1982 to 85. At that time article assistants were also respected. Finally, after a few failures, I started this profession with a decision that I will not bribe in the profession – a course I had more than a bit of trouble getting thru. Also that I would not ask my friends and relatives for work. After I was stable I did do their work as I was satisfied that I would be able to do justice.
In Patna, Bihar in St Micheals I was exposed to the dedication and love of Fr. Starr & Fr. Murphy who treated all with respect and love. In those days, the library had many restr4ictions against theft of books. However, books were defaced and torn and many times missing. Fr. Murphy has his library of novels which was open to all. No register, no overseeing, and no checks!! Not one book got missing- learned a valuable lesson- trust begets trust.
In Bangalore, I was forced to drop a class due to my wonderful academic track record. Life changer/ game changer for me.
I believed and continue to believe the school motto – faith & toil. Several major training and coaching programs underline that habit-forming repetition is the secret of many legends/ achievers. Further that there was nothing I could not achieve if I was prepared to spend time (persevere) and energy. We can also call it to focus. This was thanks to our principal Late Fr. Hedwick D'Costa. In 2 years in St. Josephs Boys High School, I was transformed from a bitter weakling [poor in English and failing in half a dozen subject till 9th standard] to being the top of the class in Chemistry and also on the basketball team!!
Passing CA in 1988 took up central excise as my specialization in 1989 for 2 main reasons:
A. There were very few professionals in the area of Central Excise – an average focused person could grow faster as there was no competition. My goal at that time was Rs. 10 K clear earning per month
B. My Guru Shri K S Ravishankar [ who was practicing FERA & Central Excise at that time] answered my question – whether I could practice without giving bribes – WHY NOT?
Starting in Central Excise made me an expert at Louis L'mour, Alister Mc Lean, and many authors as I had hardly any work for a few years. The rude shock of not being able to get a registration [ the bribe at that time was Rs.20K!!.]This put grave doubts at that time on whether I would end up even feeding the family. However, with time, I got angry and started venting it whenever I was in the department with anybody and everybody. Finally, the feeling was put in writing sent to the officer. His utter disdain of my letters forced me to escalate the matter to the higher officers. This worked like magic. In fact, after that my registration application was taken up in haste before I write to the higher officers. I could hear the comments – tarle ( headache, difficult person). I had arrived but the revenue officers were not at all inclined to support me/ guide me. Started to study CE seriously- after having studied so many "stupid” subjects to get thru CA, this was not a great challenge. When I met my Guru after doing some average studies, he said you have stopped digging the well the moment water was found. He said to dig deeper, sweeter water would be available, everybody who comes to town will have to visit you eventually.
My background in Brahmayya & Co was the audit of many MNCs and one day in 1990 I started with the idea of doing a Central Excise Audit. [ Knowledge of CE + audit] TTK group gave the opportunity and then there was no looking back to as the stream of income as it was a value-added service where I was looked at as a profit center. Many of the big firms later and after a decade practitioners in Mumbai took up this area and possibly dominated that area till GST was put in place.
Started writing articles, presenting on CE in 1994 onwards. The first academic effort was to revise Shri Arvind Datar's book on Central Excise Procedures in 1996 which never got published. I should thank Wadwa Publications as this made me angry and rest you know is history- wrote more than 20 books in Central Excise, Service Tax, IDT audit ALWAYS with a co-author. Getting angry is NOT ALWAYS A B=NEGATIVE. Must have set a record for spawning more than 20 authors & 1000 + speaker to date.
This was the defining event that changed me from an average practitioner to those perceived with more. Most of my partners in my firm are urged to write a book- The moment they do that they get 10 years ahead in their knowledge.
Added Service tax in 1998 when we were required to register. Luckily the same dept., I did not have to face any new challenges.
Was a proprietor for 14 years in which I appeared before the Tribunal first in Chennai and then at Bangalore. However, the scant regard the bench had for the practitioners and finally, specific remarks against me led me first to stop going to Chennai and later even to the Bangalore Tribunal.
A chance remark by in the late 90s that I am creating leaders from my office set me off to try a partnership to increase this number. After a failed togetherness, I started off fresh with a firm to grow as per my whims and fancies.
In 2000 took up DISA and failed in spite of joint study etc- became the laughing stock with my children. However, the next attempt completed that as well as CISA – which shut them up.
Came to know that I already had a heart attack a few years back- I had some contributing habits which unfortunately are there even today.
Had a very difficult couple of years to reinvent me. At this point Landmark Forum, an experiential learning program gave many tools to get over adversities which I use even today when stuck. Most of the management Gurus of today also advocate similar philosophies. The flip said of these courses is the extensive time spent on marketing their other products and getting one to commit to one more course. Some common learnings:
One was to think of big problems so that the normal problems in life look petty and insignificant.
Put a structure do continuously- get into a habit and results are as sure as gravity. There is where my/ our vision started getting created. Proving that financial success is possible without unethical practice, making indirect tax laws in India simple fair, and transparent.
My stunt in the ICAI central council was a frustrating experience with hardly any support from the Council. However, I am thankful that my Chairmanship of IDT was in 2012 & 2016- 19 was not disturbed though some presidents tried their best to avoid. One president told me that 12 Council Members had specifically said that I should not be allowed to be the Chairman!! Anybody but me.
I had a wonderful, committed, knowledgeable teams where I learned in many aspects of life and underlined that trust work very effectively. We created opportunities after putting the service tax certificate course and IDT certificate course as models of excellent material and got training done in smaller branches. Then came GST where we did some research work at Bangalore and then continued giving well-researched inputs for law drafting. Unfortunately, bureaucracy is an area where every CA can earn. We got accolades from PM Modi as well as the then FM Jaitley for GST contribution on 1st July 2018. Of course, no CA can forget what words followed.
Today we are in 12 Places in India and in another 2 years in 18. Grown from a 4 member team in 2002 when I came out of a failed partnership, to 14 partners, 250+ staff with 50 qualified joining me in creating this entity, an enviable brand in IDT.
A couple of times some friends of mine, my partners, and senior advocates have encouraged me to focus on empowerment instead of only sharing GST insights. On crossing 60 years a few days back I have thought that this could also be one of my specific life projects after empowering CAs and other practitioners in GST in the past 3.5 years in and out of the ICAI. I would also focus on the practitioners though many of the suggestions may also be equally applicable to the professional in employment. Again, for the reason that I have never been an employee except for the brief period of being an article with Late Shri Venkata Rao, my principal in Brahmayya & Co, Bangalore for 3 yrs 8 months in the early 80s.
Though I am not very clear on how I should take this forward I would start with the sharing in the area of setting professional goals as for me I started 17 years late.
Step - I - Choosing the Area of Practice & setting your professional goals
General Vs Specialisation: This decision may be taken considering the town/ city in which you practice and the level of economic prosperity in the region. In smaller towns, all services may have to be provided with maybe 1 area of specialization. To decide one may access the net for understanding the advantages and disadvantages, scope in that area being examined.
Choosing the specialization: It may be seen how many others are practicing in that area and how long it would take for one to compete effectively with the seniors.
The areas where service is not existing or at a very low level – can be a good indicator. It may also be seen which is the area where one could be a profit center ( contribute to clients) rather than a cost center. This would directly impact the ease of economic compensation as well as respect/ regard for the clients. Very importantly our focus would be on focus and getting the client long-term benefits within the framework of the law.
Today clients wish to have value-added services even in the attest, advisory, or dispute resolution functions we may carry out.
Setting the goals: Goal setting is an area where the internet is full of ideas. While setting goals look beyond self – keep service as the 1st goal not how to earn. Have a goal that would wow you. See the video on the purpose, vision, mission, and values of the firm. Remember this vision has been recently enhanced after inputs from all stakeholders. We did not have a written goal for 2 decades of practice. Once this was put in place, the growth was exponential. The concept of attracting good things from the universe works in all areas of life including profession. [Rhoda Byrne, Robin Cook] Link to video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ovU7Z8txao.
Some tips for setting the goals:
Mahatma Gandhi – Be the change you wish to see. Do this in our profession. Introspect for some time.
Set 3-4 goals which would make you feel "wow”. Making a difference to thousand, Earning Rs. 100 Crores…..Being No 1 in India….
Making out a mission has lofty dreams which would require considerable stretching. Remember - THE UNIVERSE IS WAITING TO SUPPORT YOU.
List out why you wish to have that- this will help when the road bumps come up.
Many people have good ideas- only those who implement well are truly successful. Put a structure to make an excel. If you wish mail me for my template for professional goals (this is a document being enhanced as I go along)
After this put down 3-4 values which are non-negotiable – you could start with the code of conduct- what inspires you.
Put the goals on your desktop laptop. See it every day.
This project I dedicate to all my teachers as well as my son Akshay on this August 24th (Birthday) for being balanced, evolved, smarter and more loving than his father.
Read the next article in the Professional Empowerment Series - Chapter 2: Getting the Knowledge Edge
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