Managing partner, Abalos & Associates
I have been a cyclist for nine years.
I had one of my clients, a plumbing
contractor, put a shower in my office building so
that I could ride my bike to work. The contractors
did a 150-mile bike ride to Parker Dam (on the
Colorado River between Arizona and California) for
the benefit of the Multiple Sclerosis Society and
asked me to do it with them. I said ‘Sure!’ I
didn’t know anything about road riding. I had this
heavy utility bike. I was horrible. I just kept at
it. Every time I trained, it got a little easier.
Then it started to become fun and challenging.
Twenty miles into the 150-mile ride, the
tandem bike I was riding with a friend crashed.
My knee was bleeding all over, but I got
it bandaged up and rode the 90 miles on the first
day. That night it wouldn’t calm down, so we went
to the medic and he said I needed stitches. I
wanted the Novocain to last 12 or 24 hours because
the medic said it’d be easier to ride with the
stitches in. I couldn’t feel my knee the next day.
But we rode 60 miles and finished strong.
I have been riding ever since. That’s how
I met my husband. I was going through a
divorce after a 25-year marriage. It was the most
difficult time of my life. All I wanted to do was
ride my bike; it was my therapy. I went on the
Internet to the MS Society Web page to find a
training group. I found Alan Havir, a certified
coach with the U.S. Cycling Federation, who
volunteered his time to train riders for the MS
150. We’ve been married for a year now. We go
riding every chance we get. It’s our passion.
My senior year at Arizona State
University, I started working with a gentleman
named David Schwarz. He was a sole
practitioner, and I was hired on as a part-time
secretary and bookkeeper. When I graduated from
ASU in May of 1979, there were few women in the
profession. In my class, only 2% of the graduating
accountants were female. I proceeded to interview
with the Big Eight firms and some local firms and
I did not get a single job offer—not one.
I told David I wanted to work with him.
I sat for the CPA exam and passed in
September of 1980. By January 1981, I was a CPA,
and the firm became Schwarz & Abalos. That was
the beginning of the formal partnership. I had a
baby April 29, 1980, and brought her to work, and
had a second child March 25, 1982. I brought her
to work four days after she was born so I could
finish tax season. David was way beyond his years
in accepting women, diversity and children in the
workplace. He retired in 1988, and the firm name
changed to Abalos & Associates P.C.
For a long, long time, Abalos &
Associates was an all-female firm. Not
by design. It was our work scheduling that
attracted what I’d call highly competent and
professional female CPAs. I adopted job
flexibility early on. That resulted in people
being more on board, more focused and working
productively. No other firm was offering that in a
way where there was no guilt or backlash from
other staff. There’s no backlash here.
I never talk to my clients about debits
and credits. I teach my clients cowboy
math—a down and dirty, simple and
straight-shooting way of explaining financial
relationships and concepts. I don’t tell them I’m
teaching them financial statements or GAAP.
Immediately they become more relaxed and open
because it’s not going to be hard.
I’ve had the good fortune to win several
awards. The award that meant the most
to me was the Small Business Administration
National Accountant Advocate of the Year in 1996.
I consider myself a fighter for small business and
have learned that one voice can make a difference.
That day I met President Clinton, testified before
Congress on independent contractor legislation and
received this recognition. It doesn’t get any
better than that.