Everybody needs a stress-reliever. Mine is driving my 2003 Ford Mustang Cobra 140 mph. Of course, I can’t—and wouldn’t—do that on the street. But everyone who has a Mustang, a Corvette, a Porsche or a BMW wants to take it out and “open it up.” Many of us do that safely on the racetrack.
When I bought my Cobra in 2003, I became a member of a club for performance-car owners. I saw an ad in the club’s quarterly magazine for a performance-driving school in Ontario. That fall, I showed up at the track with a helmet, a lug wrench and a tire-pressure gauge. And I got hooked.
For a sports car “nut” like me, it’s a real treat to drive the same racetracks used by NASCAR and Indy Racing League professionals. About three or four times during the summer, I trailer my car and take it to a track where I enroll in a performance-driving school. Once I get “qualified” through classroom instruction, I’m able to take the car out onto the road course for eight to nine 40-minute run sessions over a two-day event simulating true racing conditions, along with 25 to 30 other high-performance autos, reaching average speeds of 105 to 125 mph.
I love my hobby, and I also love my work. After I graduated from college in 1980, I took a job for two years with a three-person accounting firm in central New York. I then moved to a larger firm, and finally settled in with a medium- size local firm, where I worked for 14 years. In 1996, my partner, Robert Cuomo, and I joined forces to build what is now Sirchia & Cuomo LLP. We later merged with another small firm in 2003 to add an equity partner, Maryann Winters. We currently have two offices and a staff of 10 people.
I prefer the atmosphere of a small firm. I think our smallness affords us the ability to see the challenges and opportunities that our clients have. We help them not only with their accounting and tax returns, but also with their human resources, purchasing, information technology, and lease and contract negotiations.
To deal with the current challenges in the economy, we are helping them refocus and review their initial planning model. We urge them to diversify, don’t chase the next “hot trend,” understand their portfolio allocations in the context of the next few years, and continue to review their goals and evaluate their risk tolerance.
I can’t think of any other experience as gratifying and career-fulfilling as understanding our small business clients, seeing issues from their perspective, and helping them solve problems that would otherwise give them angina. Many CPAs never have the opportunity to work that closely with businesses, yet I believe this is especially important in today’s economic environment. To help clients as much as we are capable of doing, we have to educate them about what we can do for them in addition to their tax returns. Clients often only see CPAs as “bean counters.”
When I was in college, I worked as an emergency medical technician. My attraction to the medical field may explain why about 30% of my clients are medical doctors and physical therapists. It also may explain why I have been drawn to working with a local hospital, Oneida Healthcare Center in Oneida, N.Y. I’ve been on its board of directors since 1993, and I am currently the chair of the board of trustees. I’ve also been the chair of the hospital’s Finance Committee for about 13 years.
I truly enjoy working with the hospital, which is so key to our community. It’s one way I am able to give back to my community, which has given me so much. I’m also a past member of our local United Way board of directors, and this past summer I participated in constructing a home for a needy family in ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Giving back to the community is something I believe all professionals should do.
—As told to Linda Segall