Creating Peace of Mind for Clients: Q&A with Top Thought Leader Stanley Foodman

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[The latest in our ongoing series of discussions on successful thought leadership with recipients of JD Supra's Readers' Choice awards:]

Stanley Foodman of Foodman CPAs & Advisors has been training in martial arts for more than half a century. And he has no intention of stopping because, “every time I practice, I learn something. I can’t seem to stop learning.”

He feels the same about writing on tax law compliance, which helps him make sense of the issues facing his clients so that he can better guide them through their challenges, which range from international tax and business consulting to recovery of stolen property, discovery of hidden assets, money laundering, and bank fraud.

Writing lets me learn, see the deeper picture, and extract the underlying principles so that I can better educate the people who read my work.

How did you get started writing?

I started writing back before 2010, perhaps even earlier, at the recommendation of some attorneys with whom I was working as a trial consultant. They suggested that writing would make me a more prominent thought leader by getting my name in front of more people.

I thought that the larger my audience, the better it was for me, so I said okay and started publishing.

What inspires you?

What inspires me are events of the day that catch my attention and push emotional buttons at some level, because I can help people understand and respond to them. There are always new cases decided in tax court, criminal cases involving taxes, changes to tax law and regulations, developments that impact other areas, not just tax, like banking compliance, corporate governance, and international activities.

I'm learning new things all the time. [The] process gives me a better appreciation for the clients’ perspective...

I look for the interplay between forensic accounting, complex international tax, and corporate governance to see how and where I can help educate people and help them sleep well at night. Tax law is an especially complex area. It's poorly understood by the general public – even by compliance officers in banks – who don’t always understand the impact of the US tax code on what they do every single day. So I'm trying to just help create some peace of mind and give people some food for thought.

What is your writing process?

I have someone who helps me with research on the topics that catch my attention, which we package into articles on specific subjects. After it’s written up, I go through it carefully to ensure accuracy, of course, but also to work on grammar and vocabulary: I am very demanding about writing in the active tense and using a concise language to describe the concepts and situations covered in my articles.

I am very demanding about ... using a concise language to describe the concepts and situations...

I think vocabulary is very important and that by simplifying our vocabulary, we can lose context and the subtleties of situations. So I'm very conscious of those things when I write.

I also write from the perspective of how my work is going to be looked at if I have to go to court as an expert. I don’t write in a controversial way, I don’t use superlatives, etc.

How do you benefit from writing?

The funny thing about writing is that it's a self-teaching tool. As I research and draft my articles, I'm learning new things all the time. I think there’s great benefit in that, even more so because that process gives me a better appreciation for the clients’ perspective as they try to make sense of the tax code – a document that's not written in a way that people are accustomed to seeing, is thousands of pages long, and is written by the government in eight-point type.

Writing lets me learn, see the deeper picture, and extract the underlying principles so that I can better educate the people who read my work.

What’s the value for you in writing?

For me, one great value of my writing is the assistance it provides clients and other readers, people who find themselves in a difficult situation like a tax conflict or compliance issue or facing someone from the Internal Revenue Service. There’s a hundred questions they can have, and much of the answers they need are on our website. This makes JD Supra an invaluable asset for disseminating information and messaging to our targeted readers.

[Writing] does garner attention and public recognition, and when properly promoted can lead to other opportunities, like television or radio...

We know this because of the feedback we get from attorneys, high-level compliance officers, financial institutions, and the like. And, from the referrals they send us when their clients need the type of compliance assistance that we can provide.

What advice do you have for others who want to be thought leaders?

First, don't give up. Not everything gets published – not everything I write is published – because, as the saying goes, not everything that glitters is gold. But that shouldn’t discourage you – you just have to keep working at it.

Second, work on expanding your vocabulary for clarity. How things are worded, how they are phrased is critically important, and you should never stop trying to improve your use of language. It's sort of like sanding a piece of wood: just keep sanding and make it as smooth as you can.

And third, don’t expect that writing will directly translate into money. It won’t. At least that’s what my experience has been. But it does garner attention and public recognition, and when properly promoted can lead to other opportunities, like television or radio, for example, and the opportunity to meet people who might want to use your services.

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Stanley Foodman is CEO of Foodman CPAs & Advisors, one of Florida’s most respected forensic accounting and advisory services firms. He held the lead spot among the top ten authors in JD Supra's 2021 Readers' Choice awards tax category. Follow his latest writings here.

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