Thursday, December 29, 2011

CFOs Expect Financial Hiring to Increase in First Quarter of 2012

One-fifth of executives interviewed for the Robert Half Financial Hiring Index said they plan to have full-time accounting and finance employees in the first quarter of 2012, helping drive the third consecutive quarter of sequential growth.

Eleven percent of respondents forecast staff decreases, leaving a net 9 percent increase, up four points from the fourth-quarter 2011 survey.

The South Atlantic region — which includes Virginia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. — had one of the highest net increases at 15 percent. Only the Mountain region — Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — had a higher net increase at 16 percent.

Although hiring plans are increasing, companies face problems in finding the right people to fill key positions. Nearly three-quarters (68 percent) of executives reported recruiting challenges, a 9-percent increase from the fourth quarter and a 27-percent increase from the third quarter.

"Competition for the best employees is intensifying, and, at the same time, these professionals are beginning to feel increasingly comfortable exploring new roles at other firms," Robert Half International Chairman and CEO Max Messmer said. "Businesses are still selective when hiring but understand they need to move quickly once the right candidate is identified."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Giving Back: Jim Shepherd, CPA

Jim Shepherd, CPA, doesn’t lack for professional honors. He’s one of the most accomplished financial planners in the Richmond area and has the awards to prove it, having earned a spot on the Virginia Business “Super CPAs” list several years running.

But it’s in the community where Shepherd (right), co-founder of Kuehl Shepherd Kozlowski & Associates, has made perhaps his greatest impact. His passion for helping other people and using his accounting skills to do so found a natural outlet with the VSCPA. He’s held just about every leadership position possible at the Society, including a term as Vice Chair of the VSCPA Educational Foundation Board of Directors and his current spot on the Society’s Board of Directors.

Shepherd got his start as a VSCPA volunteer with the Society’s Richmond chapter. He served as president of that group before moving on to the Educational Foundation.

“I really met some wonderful people who are still lifelong friends and wonderful acquaintances who I deal with in business situations,” he said. “The Richmond chapter gave me an opportunity to be involved in some great aspects.”

The leadership qualities Shepherd has exhibited with the VSCPA haven’t gone unnoticed by outside observers. In addition to his shelf full of “Super CPA” awards, the Financial Planning Association of Central Virginia honored him with the John H. Cecil, Jr. Lifetime Service Award in 2008.

The VSCPA has benefited greatly from that service. Shepherd has helped shape Society and Foundation decisions for years and has thrown himself into other VSCPA opportunities with gusto. He’s worked as a presenter for the Society’s annual Ethics course, echoing a large reason he got into accounting in the first place.

“I thought this profession had more ethics and more wonderful people than any of the other people that I worked with in business, so I really thought it was a great area to be involved in,” he said. As a result, volunteerism just became a natural outgrowth of that. It was such a wonderful thing to be able to provide opportunities and give back and meet other people who are actively involved in this profession.

“…I’m always astounded by how much the quality of this profession shows through among the people.”

Shepherd’s volunteer efforts have extended far beyond the VSCPA. He’s a former president of the South Richmond Rotary Club and has served on boards and committees for the International Hospital for Children, the Chesterfield Health Center Commission (where he served as chairman) and the Byrd Theatre Foundation.

Through it all, he’s kept perspective on the reasons he donates so much of his time.

“It's nice to be able to see some wonderful things come together that wouldn't be possible without the talents of people volunteering their time,” he said. “It truly makes a difference in the profession and in the community as well.”

Interested in a volunteer position with the VSCPA? Visit and sign up by the Feb. 3, 2012, deadline.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advance Your Career by Developing 'Soft Skills'

So-called “soft skills” can make or break your relationship with your clients, particularly in a service industry like accounting. The Annapolis (Md.) Capital recently provided a rundown of the most important soft skills, with questions to ask yourself to help evaluate where you are:
  • Do you have a positive attitude?
  • Do you do what you say you will?
  • Are you respectful of other people’s time?
  • Are you proactive?
  • Do you show gratitude to people who help you?
  • Do you admit mistakes quickly and offer solutions?
  • Do you help others and work well with team members?
  • Do you communicate clearly verbally and in writing?
  • Do you listen carefully without interrupting?
  • Are you motivated to learn new skills?
  • How adaptable are you?
  • Do you avoid complaining?
  • Are you honest?
  • Do you persevere?
  • Are you creative?
By developing your soft skills, you can make yourself more attractive to clients and employers and provide a platform to let your professional talents shine through.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Many Workers Experience More Stress During the Holidays

Thirty-nine percent of workers surveyed by Accountemps say it's more challenging to manage their workloads during the holiday season.

For the survey, Accountemps interviewed 459 workers 18 years of age or older and employed in an office environment. When asked, "In general, is it more or less challenging to manage your workload during the holiday season?", 25 percent of respondents answered "Somewhat more challenging" and another 14 percent said "Much more challenging." Forty-four percent of respondents said there was no difference.

Workers were also asked, "Which of the following best describes your current professional workload?" Nearly half (47 percent) answered "Just right," while 29 percent indicated their workload was "Somewhat too heavy." Twelve percent answered "Much too heavy."

According to Accountemps Chairman Max Messmer, accounting and finance professionals can suffer particular challenges during the holiday season due to year-end close responsiblities and tax season preparation, among other factors.

Accountemps indicated five ways employers can help their employees manage end-of-year-workloads:
  • Support: Ensure staff have the resources needed to successfully complete their projects, including skilled temporary staff if necessary
  • Time: Encourage staff to leave early on a Friday or take an occasional long lunch to attend to non-work responsibilities
  • Flexibility: Offer flexible schedules or telecommuting options to help employees with work/life balance
  • Thanks: Express your appreciation to staff members for their work throughout the year
  • Fun: Close the year with a department celebration to build camaraderie