What if a tax pro’s work propels him toward a hobby or the work halts a childhood passion, only to be rediscovered years later as a way to deal with the stress of work? I recently sat down with Fredric D. Leffler, CPA, MBA, from Columbia, Md. Fred, an Intuit® ProConnect™ Lacerte® user, discussed his unique hobbies, diverse background and how his practice has evolved over the years.
Bryan Cytron: How did you get started in tax?
Fredric D. Leffler: I got into tax because I seemed to have an aptitude for it as an undergraduate. I was drawn by its complexity and the opportunity it provided for me to use creativity to solve intellectual issues. I also appreciated the reality that taxes color every aspect of personal and business life. It is a gloss that washes over all we do, so I understood it meant I could better things that happen all around us.
BC: I understand running has become a passion of yours; you even recently ran the Paris Marathon. How did you get into running?
FL: More than 30 years ago, I saw a picture of myself carving a pumpkin with my daughter. Working long hours saddled me with a tire around my waist and the puffy cheeks of a baby. My response was to join an athletic club, hire a trainer and work out several times a week. Around the same time, a friend came to the same conclusion, but instead of lifting weights, he ran. We decided to combine our efforts: I pushed him to lift weights, and in exchange, I ran. I will never forget the first time I ran a mile. The more I worked out, the better I felt. That was all I needed. From that point on, it was three days a week, rain or shine. I never stopped.
BC: Another love of yours is playing keyboards. How long have you been playing?
FL: Growing up, there was always music in the house. My father played; it was his hobby and then became his occupation when he retired. Me? I started playing nightclubs while I was in high school. My father would take me to local jazz clubs to hear organ trios play. I was mesmerized by the greats: “Brother” Jack McDuff and Richard “Groove” Holmes.
Given my formative years were influenced by organ trios, it stands to reason that my keyboard of choice is the Hammond B3 organ. Before graduation from high school, I bought my first Hammond organ and joined the musician’s union. After graduation, I played full time. After several years of playing locally and on the road, I had the epiphany that music was not the career for me. However, as I worked my way through school, I continued to support myself and my family through music. After graduating law school and obtaining my CPA license, I stopped playing completely. It has only been over the last 10 years that I again have prioritized music in my life. I now play classic rock several times a month with various groups. It is a great creative release from the stresses of my day gig.
BC: You have a unique background that spans more than 30 years and have owned a number of businesses. Tell me how this path helped influence your career.
FL: I view everything that I have ever done, or will ever do, as a stitch in the tapestry that defines me. I have owned services and manufacturing businesses. I was a commercial real estate broker, co-owner of a sign manufacturing company and co-owner of a professional education school. In summer 2008, I even worked with at-risk youth at Voyageur Outward Bound in their wilderness school in Minnesota. I also had the pleasure of doing unsupported expeditions with Outward Bound, dog sledding in sub-zero weather and hiking the desert of Big Bend, Texas, all within the past 10 years. Every job had a lesson to teach.
BC: What one piece of advice do you give to your clients seeking your tax and business planning wisdom?
FL: Understand the basics before you grapple with the complex. Too often, people reach for answers before they understand the question. If the foundation of a problem is carefully defined, the answers seem almost intuitive. The challenge is often in identifying the real issues and asking the right questions, not in providing the answer.
BC: Thanks, Fred!
Editor’s note: Fred is a regular contributor to the Intuit ProConnect Tax Pro Center on articles that focus on management issues and tax planning.