UW-Eau Claire accounting intern gains practical experience while learning the value of good client service
Carrie Miller, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire accounting student, completed a four-month internship during the 2011 tax season with Bohl Associates, a small public accounting firm owned and operated by Mary Bohl, Accountant. Located in Barron, WI, Bohl Associates provides accounting, bookkeeping, and tax services to a wide variety of small businesses throughout Wisconsin. Miller chose this internship experience because she hopes to have a similar business of her own one day. “Any student who has a long-term goal of running their own private firm in a rural area should definitely get an internship like this one,” said Miller. “I loved working there, and I would love to do it again next tax season.”
As an intern at Bohl Associates, Miller worked on several bookkeeping tasks. One of her first major assignments was to transfer records from a client’s personal balance sheet and income statement to the firm’s accounting information system. “It was a great, real life way to use what I learned in Accounting 301,” said Miller. “Everything had to balance, and if it didn’t I had to figure out where I made a mistake,” she continued. “It was so rewarding when it all balanced, especially if I had to find my error.”
Her next big project involved working for a tax client who is a sole proprietor of a small auto shop business. At the end of each year, the client brings his check book, bank statements and all his income and expense information to the accounting firm to be entered into a general journal. This information is used by Mary Bohl to prepare the client’s Schedule C tax return. “Reconciling the whole year at once is a bit time consuming,” admitted Miller, “But Bohl Associates has several other small business clients who are handled in this way.” Miller also reconciled monthly checkbooks for year round bookkeeping clients.
During her internship, Miller also performed some clerical tasks such as mailing, filing, and preparing folders for the very busy tax season. “In a small, privately owned accounting firm, these tasks are very important as well,” she explained.
Miller felt her time at Bohl Associates was time well spent as it allowed her to test her accounting skills. “I have only truly seen accounting at work in a school setting,” she said. “It was very rewarding to use it in the real world, and realize that I really do understand concepts I have learned thus far in the classroom.”
The experience also gave Miller insight as to how to build a base of customers who return to the firm time and time again. She observed that even during the busy tax season, Mary Bohl gave clients the time they needed to feel confident asking any question they might have. As a result, many of Bohl’s clients have been clients of the accounting firm for many years. “Once you have clients who come to trust you, you have them for life,” Miller concluded. This is a valuable lesson for all future public accountants to learn. Repeat business doesn’t just happen. It must be earned by developing and maintaining good client relationships.