Frank Bahl, CPA
Owner, Cookies by Design
Business transfer specialist, Murphy Business and Financial Services
I’M THE OLDEST OF 10 KIDS; three of the seven boys are accountants. I was going to be a doctor until I went to college and discovered the stock market; then I switched to accounting. October will be the 30th anniversary of my CPA accreditation.
I ALSO HAVE CERTIFICATION FROM COOKIE UNIVERSITY in Plano, Texas. It wasn’t as hard as getting my CPA, though it did involve my carefully studying processes. If companies had the documentation that I have in my store to make cookies, they’d have no problems with SOX 404.
I WAS A GREEN BERET DURING VIETNAM. I grew up in Colorado; I learned karate and could shoot a .22 when I was nine. I also had considered being a priest and went to a religious camp high in the mountains. I had climbed 23 mountains by the time I was 14. It’s funny how life sometimes takes you places you never expect to go, how I ended up in the military instead of the priesthood.
I MET MY WIFE AT FORT DEVONS in Massachusetts and asked her to marry me six weeks later. She said I had to go to college first, so after the war I did. Becoming a CPA was my idea, though. I’d been trained to always try to be the best at whatever you did, and I believed the CPA was the top credential in business. I still believe that.
AFTER LIVING IN DENVER AND BOSTON, my wife and I decided to go somewhere warm before the kids started high school. In 1989 I took a job in Florida as CFO of Tax Tech Enterprises, the division of Arthur Andersen that made tax software. My wife, who’s a nurse by training, had opened a franchise of Cookies by Design in Sarasota when she got hired away by a hospice, so I took over the business. I run it and I’m also a business transfer specialist at Murphy Business and Financial Services, and I do consulting work in the health care and software industries. Growing up in a big family, I’m used to having a lot of jobs. My dad always had three.
I LOVE THE COOKIE BUSINESS. Women do most of the gift-giving, so most of the customers are women, and they’re fun to be around. But I’ve seen first-hand how burdensome the reporting requirements for small businesses are—even for me, and I’m a CPA. Another surprise was how much time you spend on your feet in a small business. I’m standing 12 hours a day.
IT TAKES DISCIPLINE TO MAKE A SMALL BUSINESS SUCCESS. But you see the results every day—not like in a big company, where you wait till the end of the month. The key to success for a small business is marketing. We probably give away 1,000 cookies a month so people can try the product.
I LIKE TO TEACH. I’ve been on the Food Channel 24 times, demonstrating how to assemble a cookie arrangement in a gift basket. Not too many Green Berets can make that claim. I’m also a member of the Health Care Financial Management Association and the AICPA, and I speak on technology issues for the Florida Institute of CPAs.
BEING A GREEN BERET WAS EXCITING; I met the Kennedys and Jimmy Carter. But that was part of a different life and a different time; it’s not the kind of life I wanted to lead forever. Marrying Jan and having a family were the best things I ever did.
As this article went to print, Bahl had decided to give up the cookie business and return to a full-time career in a corporate environment.
—As told to Cheryl Rosen