Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Young Professionals Corner: A Guide to Managing Your Own Education

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of guest posts from young VSCPA members dealing with topics of interest to young professionals. If you'd like to write or have a topic you'd like a future blogger to cover, please email VSCPA Academic & Career Development Coordinator Tracey Zink.

By Steven Valdez
Associate, KPMG

Time and time again we are told to manage our careers and drive down the next industry,
company, or position we are interested in.  The equally as important part of managing your life comes in the form of managing your own education. 
  • Make Your Self-Education A Priority: On the constant evolving list of priorities it is important to put your continuous education that you can’t be forced to do at work at the forefront.  Take this responsibility and really own it, because no one else can assign you better educational lessons of your interest than yourself.
  • Go For The Tiny Wins: Education doesn’t always have to come in the size of a 1,000 page book, 5 hour video series, or driving across the country to attend a conference.  The most effective way to educate yourself is through many tiny learning sessions over a period of time when you can squeeze it in to your demanding schedule.  Define generally what you would like to learn and begin to take the time to lay out various videos or articles.  Bookmark interesting articles or websites in your browser for quick access.
  • Block Off Time In Your Schedule: Make your learning time important enough to block off the time on your work calendar.  Take an extra 30 minutes at the end of a couple days out of the week to learn a few things of interest.  Over the course of a couple months you would have expanded your tool belt tremendously.
  • Constantly Reevaluate Your  Why: It will come as no surprise that desires and interests are ever changing.  Keeping that in mind, ensure that you spend some time reflecting every so often on the path you are traveling to see if you need to realign your self-education with dynamically changing interests.
Steven Valdez is an associate with KPMG in Richmond. In his spare time, he works with the VSCPA's Young Professionals Advisory Council, the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce Richmond Business Council and his alma mater, Longwood University.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ways to Overcome ‘Impostor Syndrome’

At some point in their professional lives, everyone, no matter how successful, feels like they’re a fraud. Even luminaries like Maya Angelou, Tina Fey, Neil Gaiman, Sheryl Sandberg and Sonia Sotomayor have written or spoken about the feeling of impending doom that would come with being “found out.” And that great indicator of the national pulse, The Onion, published an article earlier this year titled “Report: Today the Day They Find Out You’re a Fraud.”

At StartupBros, Kyle Eschenroeder listed 21 ways to overcome that feeling. Here’s his list:

1.     Come off it. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s healthy to recognize that you’re not as important as you think you are. The standard of perfection that you feel you have to hit probably isn’t as high as you think.
2.     Accept that you have had some role in your successes. After all, you did something to get where you are.
3.     Focus on providing value. As Eschenroeder says, “The fastest way to get over feeling like a fraud is to genuinely try to help someone else.”
4.     Keep a file of people saying nice things about you. You can revisit them whenever you’re feeling down about your work.
5.     Stop comparing yourself to that person. You don’t need to hit the standard of Einstein or Gandhi, or even that perfectly put-together classmate on Facebook. Learn to respect your own experience.
6.     Expose yourself totally. Eschenroeder describes impostor syndrome as a kind of “twisted arrogance.” This is akin to “come off it,” in that other people likely don’t hold you to as high a standard as you hold yourself. Let down your guard — it’s freeing.
7.     Treat the thing as a business/experiment. If no one is responding to certain things you do, don’t do them. (Job requirements aside, of course.)
8.     Say “It’s Impostor Syndrome” and it immediately becomes a little less terrible.
9.     Remember: Being wrong doesn’t make you a fake. Failure is part of life. It doesn’t mean you’re a fraud.
10.  “Nobody belongs here more than you.” Of course, the opposite is also true — you don’t belong where you are more than anyone else.
11.  Realize that when you hold back, you’re robbing the world.  Going through life convinced you’re a fraud prevents you from giving all you have to offer. The best way to be truly free and productive is to move forward despite your doubts.
12.  You’re going to die. And that creates a sense of urgency. Do you want to spend your entire life holding back because you felt like a fraud?
13.  Stream-of-consciousness writing. Do it for half an hour. It will put you in touch with what’s going on inside yourself.
14.  Say what you can. Even if you’re an expert on a topic, you don’t have to know everything about it. Focus on what you do know.
15.  Realize that nobody knows what they’re doing. Everyone fails. You’re not an impostor for trying something risky.
16.  Take action. Eschenroeder says, “Impostor Syndrome lives in abstraction. It is impossible for it to survive when you’re taking action. Taking action proves that you’re not a fraud.”
17.  Realize that you are never you. You’re constantly changing into the person you’ll be. You are getting better.
18.  Authenticity is a hoax. It’s natural to present different sides of yourself or your work to different people.
19.  See credentials for what they are. Don’t measure yourself by credentials — measure yourself by your work.
20.  Find someone you can say “I feel like a fraud” to. Just verbalizing it can help you defeat it.
21.  Faking things actually does work. Keep trying to do things, even if they probably won’t work. You’ll get there eventually.

How do you get through those moments of professional doubt?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Are the 'Defining Dozen' the Right Metrics for Your Firm?

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) posted a list last year of the 12 metrics CPA firms should track in order to better define how well a firm is capitalizing on existing relationships and setting the stage to expand into new ones. The aim of these metrics is to provide qualitative feedback and help firms manage their reach with clients.

The AICPA identified the following key metrics:
  • Lifetime value of a client (sum of all revenues generated from the firm's service offerings over the lifetime of the client)
  • Cost of client acquisition
  • Client retention rate
  • Average number of services per client
  • Average number of top-client "touches" per month
  • Average client response time
  • Number of cross-selling opportunities versus such opportunities won
  • Request for proposal (RFP) win percentage, other proposal win percentage and pipeline win percentage/conversion
  • Average number of professional development hours per firm member (monthly and annually)
  • Utilization rate and realization rate (by service offering)
  • Staff-to-partner ratio
  • Revenue growth per year (actual vs. expected)
Does your firm track these metrics or similar ones? Are some of these more useful for firms of specific sizes or practice areas?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Exact Amount of Time You Should Spend Working Every Day

According to Fast Company, the Draugiem Group says they've hit upon the exact number.

Draugiem, a social networking company, used the time-tracking productivity app DeskTime to see how the most productive employees spent their time. The results were surprising — the 10 percent of employees with the highest productivity spent LESS time working than the average employee, taking a 17-minute break for every 52 minutes they spent working.

Fast Company wrote: "Employees with the highest levels of productivity worked for 52 minutes with intense purpose, then rested up, allowing their brains time to rejuvenate and prepare for the next work period."

When Julia Gifford of The Muse posted the study's results, she said those 17 minutes were generally spent completely away from the computer, whether the employees were taking a walk, chatting with coworkers or reading a book. She said the study shows the importance of reassuring employees that it's okay to step away from the desk without worrying about appearing lazy or unproductive.

Fast Company offered the following tips to ensure you're getting the breaks you need:
  • Schedule breaks into your daily calendar
  • Set a timer to remind you when to take your break and when to return to work
  • Make realistic to-do lists
  • Prioritize tasks, setting three major tasks to focus on for the day and adding others as they pop up
What do your most productive employees do during the work day?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Young Professionals Corner: Tips for Staying Positive at Work

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of guest posts from young VSCPA members dealing with topics of interest to young professionals. If you'd like to write or have a topic you'd like a future blogger to cover, please email VSCPA Academic & Career Development Coordinator Tracey Zink.
By Shelly Verougstraete, CPA
Team Accountant, Joyner, Kirkham, Keel & Robertson, Richmond
It is easy to stay positive at work when things are going well but we have all had those days where nothing seems to go right. Even with long days (and sometime nights!) at the office, it can be hard to stay positive. With deadlines, endless phone calls, and emails, happiness can disappear. However, there are some ways to stay positive in the most difficult situations.
  1. Treat yourself – Go for the Venti latte. Grab a square of chocolate for an afternoon treat.
  2. Stay away from the Debbie Downers.  Stay away from the actively disengaged people at work. These are people that are negative about everything. They will bring you down and drain any enthusiasm you have left after a long day.
  3. Talk to your colleagues – Letting your struggles build up inside is a recipe for trouble. Sharing your issues with a co-worker can help ease your mind and who will receive beneficial encouragement from others.  You  might also find that a co-worker can help you out too!
  4. Challenge negative thoughts with positive ones - Negative thoughts can seem hard to avoid or erase.  Negativity is all about your mindset. Try to find the bright side of the situation.
  5. Smile! – Simply smiling, even when you are in a bad mood, can boost your happiness. Smile at a passing co-worker. Smile as you answer a client’s question. Smile even while you are by yourself. Check out this blog post on the science of smiling. (https://blog.bufferapp.com/the-science-of-smiling-a-guide-to-humans-most-powerful-gesture)
Smiling cannot only improve you attitude, but help you become more successful and possibly live longer. If that is not a reason to smile, I do not know what is!

Shelly Verougstraete, CPA, is a team accountant at Joyner, Kirkham, Keel & Robertson in Richmond. She is a graduate of Longwood University.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Arthur Andersen Is Back

Back when the Big Four was the Big Five (which was after it was the Big Eight, of course), Arthur Andersen was the fifth of the biggest of the major players in the accounting industry. Andersen would not survive the Enron and WorldCom scandals that were revealed at the turn of the century. But now it's back, at least in name.

A group of former Andersen partners have changed the name of their current firm from WTAS to Andersen Tax. The new Andersen, founded in 2002, decided to return to the name because it best reflected the firm's culture.

The firm will remain an independent global tax firm with no audit practice and will be completely owned by its partners.

Arthur Andersen and its affiliated firms peaked at more than 85,000 employees worldwide, but shuttered its U.S. accounting operations in 2002 because of problems with its audits of Enron and WorldCom. The firm never declared bankruptcy or dissolved and has focused on resolving various lawsuits since then.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mixed Results in Small Business Jobs Index

The newest iteration of the Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index showed a slight decrease in the national index, with small business employment growth slowing slightly in August, the third decline for the index in the past four months.
The Mountain region (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico) moved into the lead among regions, with a 1.66 percent index, and Wisconsin took over as the top performing state. Dallas held steady as the top metro area, topping the rankings for the third consecutive month.
The South Atlantic region, consisting of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, had a 12-month percentage change of 0.37 percent.
Nationally, the index fell 0.11 percent from July.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge Raises the Bar for Charitable Donations

The incredible success of the ALS Association’s (ALSA) viral “ice bucket challenge” provides a new goal for charities everywhere and provides a reminder of the tax benefits of such donations.

The ALSA raises money to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The charity raised $94.3 million in donations between July 29 and Aug. 27, up from $2.7 million during the same time period in 2013. Much of the increase has been attributed to the ice bucket challenge, where people use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to challenge others to donate to the ALSA or dump a bucket of ice water over their heads, although many people do both.

In addition to the good feeling (and social acceptance) that comes from accepting the challenge, charitable donations offer tax benefits for taxpayers. Donations are deductible in the year they’re given (not pledged), and last-minute donations are deductible as long as they’re made before midnight Dec. 31.

Taxpayers can also consider donating stocks, real estate or other investments they’ve held for at least 12 months, but the tax strategy depends on whether the investments have gained value. If they have, you can deduct their full market value and escape the long-term capital gains tax that would have been due when you sold the shares. If the investment has depreciated in value, it’s best to sell them, donate the proceeds to the charity and claim the donation deduction and the capital loss.

So charitable donations benefit both the charity and the donor. Think about that the next time you see someone reach for a bucket of ice water.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Young Professionals Corner: A More Efficient Outlook

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of guest posts from young VSCPA members dealing with topics of interest to young professionals. If you'd like to write or have a topic you'd like a future blogger to cover, please email VSCPA Academic & Career Development Coordinator Tracey Zink.
By Steven Valdez
Corporate Audit Analyst, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Every business professional uses email in the course of their day to day activities and can take up proportional amounts of time organizing and searching them. Today I would like to challenge how we look at and organize this major part of our professional lives.

A way to ensure that troves of new file directories aren’t being created haphazardly costing time and energy is to break it down into the six overarching broad categories. Most thought goes towards the expansion planning of email folders, but little thought is given to the contraction of those sub-folders when they can be deleted. Just like adding files to make something more effective, sometimes it is important to circle back and consolidate those sub-folders into the top-level ones. To aid in this, I use a 6-tier categorical approach that makes expanding and contracting folders easy and logical.
  • Top-Level Categories:
  • Education
  • Notifications
  • Opportunities
  • Social and Family
  • Training and HR
  • Work
Within the overarching folders the suggestion is to create hierarchies that make sense for the use of the sub-level. For categories like Training and HR it is easier to assume that subfolders won’t be necessary, but in the case of the Work folder it is different. As projects come into and out of scope over time it is important to create a flexible and easily navigable structure. As you work on one project you can create sub-folder for organizing info when in the weeds so to speak, but once the project is over it is easy to delete the subfolder and move the emails to the main project folder to be archived for future reference. The goal is to allow expansion and contractions as different priorities shift. Later on the entire Proj. Assignment I folder can be dragged anywhere without searching multiple folders.

Some of you may be familiar with the system generated emails that come in day in and day out for various things that may not always be relevant immediately. Similarly, but different to the Projects folder is the Notifications Folder helpful for automatically handling messages by using inbox rules. Inbox rules your key to having a computer secretary to handle your email or calendar requests. The advanced settings allow hundreds if not thousands of variations to prompt the exact actions you are looking for.

Steven Valdez is interning as a corporate accounting analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. He will join KPMG as an associate in October.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Third-Quarter Hiring Forecast: Plenty of Unfilled Staff Positions for Accountants

According to the Brilliant Q3 2014 Hiring Forecast, businesses in accounting, finance and information technology (IT) have a significant increase in unfilled staff positions. The document states that companies are poised to hire, but are "adopting a more conservative approach toward recovery planning due to recent economic instability and slow pace of gains."

Sixty-five percent of respondents reported that they have unfilled accounting, finance and IT positions, up 7 percent from the second quarter and 14 percent from Q3 2013. The forecast factored in responses from 181 human resources professionals and hiring managers int he accounting, finance and IT professions in a variety of industries.

"Companies in industry are actively hiring for accounting professionals, but they are being more selective because they believe supply outweighs demand," Brilliant founder and CEO Jim Wong said. "The large public accounting firms, however, are fully aware that this assumption is inaccurate for accounting and finance professionals."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Are the Best and Worst Words to Use in a Résumé?

In an economic climate slanted toward employers, many hiring managers spend as little as 30 seconds reviewing résumés. So how can a prospective employee ensure his or her package gets a second look?

Word choice is a big part of it. Harris Poll surveyed 2,201 hiring managers and human resource professionals on behalf of CareerBuilder in late 2013 and compiled the best and worst words to use on your résumé.

“Hiring managers prefer strong action words that define specific experience, skills and accomplishments,” CareerBuilder Vice President of Human Resources Rosemary Haefnersaid. “Subjective terms and clichés are seen as negative because they don’t convey real information. For instance, don’t say you are ‘results-driven’ — show the employer your actual results.”
Here are the 15 best and worst résumé words:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to Sit Less at Work

It’s no surprise that the sedentary office lifestyle is bad for your health. While the “economy class blood clot” for long flights appears to be a myth (despite what your mother told you), the simple act of getting up and walking around is good for you.

Fast Company has a useful list of 10 ways to ensure you get off your rear end and walk around. So use some of these tips. It’s for your own good.
  1. Get a step counter like a Fitbit or Jawbone Up.
  2. Set an alarm to get up and walk around.
  3. Stay hydrated — it’s healthy on its own, and you’ll have to go to the bathroom more. Win-win!
  4. Eat somewhere other than your desk — and walk there!
  5. Take a walking meeting instead of sitting at a table.
  6. Alternately, schedule a standing meeting. It’s not exercise, but at least you’re not sitting down.
  7. Pace while you’re on the phone, unless you need to sit to take notes. (Some of us do this naturally anyway.)
  8. Get a standing desk (or, better, a treadmill desk, although they’re not cheap).
  9. Visit your colleagues face-to-face instead of firing off an email. This can help lower the risk of misinterpretation, too.
  10. Use that office gym, if you’ve got one! Even just a 30-minute walk on the treadmill can burn calories without getting you too sweaty.
Do you have any other tips? Leave them in the comments!

Monday, August 4, 2014

What Type of Procrastinator Are You?

Lifehacker has a useful flowchart from Dr. Joseph Ferrari of DePaul University, who has identified some basic types of procrastinators and identified solutions for each type.

Ferrari lists three procrastination archetypes:
  • Thrill Seekers, who say they do their best work under pressure and are "probably fooling themselves"
    • Solution: Complete a task ahead of time and "experience the thrill of finishing early"
  • Avoiders, who seek to avoid blame and potential judgment on their strengths and weaknesses
    • Solution: Keep a daily journal to help you challenge your thoughts
  • Indecisives, who are paralyzed by the potential consequences of decisions, both positive and negative
    • Solution: Keep the big picture in mind and move on once you've achieved your main goal.
It's a useful piece, and you'll likely recognize some of your own traits. (Your humble blogger, for example, is a classic Avoider.) Here's the infographic:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

5 Reasons to Complete the MAP Survey Today!

The American Institute of CPAs' (AICPA) Insights blog has a great piece on the importance of the AICPA PCPS/TSCPA National MAP Survey, which closes today, July 31. Virginia is one of the states selected for the 2014 survey, so read on to learn about why you should hurry to take the survey today!

The five reasons the blog post gave were:
  1. Peer-to-peer comparisons, including key metrics broken down by firm size and geographic location
  2. The chance to redefine success by benchmarking it against local competition
  3. Benchmarking vital information for critical metrics
  4. A basis for crucial conversations, with one New Hampshire partner saying the survey "asks for just the right amount of information"
  5. An easy-to-use template for organizing internal information that you already have
Click here to start the survey now!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Study: 35 Percent of American Adults Have a Debt in Collections

According to a new study (PDF) from the Urban Institute, 35 percent of adults in the United States have a debt in collections reported in their credit history.

Nevada, which was hit hard by the mortgage crisis, topped the list with 47 percent of people who have a credit file having a debt in collections. The Silver State also had the highest average collections debt at $7,198.

Twelve other states and the District of Columbia also had more than 40 percent of adults with a credit file that reports a debt in collections. Aside from Nevada, the South was the hardest hit:
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
The Upper Midwest fared the best, with Minnesota and North and South Dakota reporting around 20 percent with reported debt in collections.

Among Virginia metropolitan statistical areas, Richmond had an average total debt of $62,323. Virginia Beach reported an average debt of $65,052, while the Washington metropolitan area had an average debt of $95,560.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Starting Salary for 2014 Accounting Grads: $52,900

According to the latest salary survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the average starting salary for 2014 graduates with business majors (including accounting) has declined slightly to $52,900.

That figure is down 0.8 percent from $53,300 in 2013. Business majors as a group will see an average starting salary of $53,901, an 0.6 percent decease from 2013.

The data was published in the April 2014 NACE Salary Survey.

Across all disciplines, the average starting salary for a new graduate with a bachelor's degree is up 1.2 percent to $45.473.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NACE: Nearly One-Third of Class of 2014 Graduates Had a Job at Graduation

According to the 2014 Student Survey from the National Association of Colleges and Universities (NACE), 30.1 percent of graduating college seniors from the class of 2014 who applied for a job had one in hand upon graduating, up 0.3 percent from the class of 2012 and 0.8 percent from the class of 2013.

Nearly half (47.9 percent) of graduating seniors had applied for a job and received at least one offer. Only 62.8 percent of those who had received a job offer had accepted an offer at the time of the survey.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What Do Employers Seek in New Hires?

What are the most valuable skills and qualities to employers when they hire new employees? A new survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has the answer.

According to NACE's Job Outlook 2014 Spring Update, employers are looking for candidates who are decisive, can solve problems, can communicate well and are analytical. "Ability to make decisions and solve problems," "Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization" and "Ability to obtain and process information" were rated as the most important skills.

NACE provided the following graphic showing the skills employers value the most:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

IRS Releases 2014 List of Frivolous Tax Arguments

Do any of these look familiar? The U.S. Internal RevenueService (IRS) has released the 2014 version of “The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments,” which details and responds to some of the most common arguments from citizens who oppose federal tax laws.
“While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities, no one has the right to disobey the law or disregard their responsibility to pay taxes,” the agency said. “The penalty for filing a frivolous tax return is $5,000. The penalty is applied to anyone who submits a tax return or other specified submission, if any portion of the submission is based on a position the IRS identifies as frivolous.”
Included in the list are arguments that taxpayers can refuse to pay income taxes on religious or moral grounds and that federal employees are the only employees subject to federal income tax.
The IRS noted that those who promote or adopt frivolous tax positions could be responsible for one of several penalties, including:
  • Accuracy-related penalties
  • Civil fraud penalties
  • Erroneous refund claim penalties
  • Failure to file penalties
Taxpayers who make such arguments may also face criminal prosecution for attempting to evade tax.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Celebrate the End of Tax Season With One-Day-Only Deals

Tax Day is here, marking the end of tax season (or at least a milepost along the way). If you’ve got time, make sure to take advantage of some of the deals restaurants and other businesses are offering to celebrate.
  • Arby’s: Today only, get a free snack-sized order of curly fries with a coupon available at coupon.arbys.com/taxday.
  • BLT Prime, BLT Steak: Half off all alcoholic beverages.
  • Boston Market: Today only, get two Boston Market Tax Meal Chicken Deals — a half rotisserie chicken, two sides and cornbread — for $10.40. (We see what you did there.)
  • Bruegger’s Bagels: Like Bruegger’s on Facebook to get a coupon for a $10.40 Big Bagel Bundle (13 bagels and two tubs of cream cheese). The offer is valid through today.
  • California Tortilla: Today only, say “Taxes Schmaxes” when making a purchase to get free chips and queso.
  • Great American Cookie: Today only, get a free regular chocolate chip cookie.
  • Hard Rock Café: Today only, guests who perform a complete song in front of the entire restaurant will receive a free dinner entrée.
  • HydroMassage: Free mini-massages through April 18.
  • McCormick & Schmick’s: Today only, the restaurant is offering an extended happy hour in locations where state laws allow it. Hours vary by location.
  • Office Depot: Get an online coupon (PDF) for free shredding of up to five pounds of paper, good through April 29.
  • Pizza Hut: Today only, get a large pizza and one of three sides for $10.99. The offer is only valid online with the promo code TAXDAY.
  • Schlotzsky’s: Today only, buy a 32-ounce drink and a bag of chips and get a free “The Original” sandwich.
  • Sonic: Today only, drinks and slushes are available for half price.
  • White Castle: Get an online coupon for a 15 percent discount good through midnight tonight.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Setting Yourself Apart From the Other 100 Accounting Students

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of guest posts from young VSCPA members dealing with topics of interest to young professionals. If you'd like to write or have a topic you'd like a future blogger to cover, please email VSCPA Academic & Career Development Coordinator Tracey Zink.

By Alice Yeh

Although the title of this blog indicates a mere 100 competitors that you have to be concerned about, I assure you that this figure is highly understated. Depending on your school, your accounting program most likely consists of more than 100 students, many of them eyeing the job you’re interviewing for. However, I have one piece of advice that will transform you into the diamond in the rough-compatibility through flexibility.

Most interviewers do not put your hard accounting skills to the test. On the contrary, they are there to inspect you as a person: your personality, your work ethic, but most of all, your compatibility with their company. However, the key is not to study your PowerPoints on federal taxation every night before you climb into bed. Being able to recite the Codification backwards will not help you handle a demanding manager or difficult teammate. You need to prove to employers that you are a well-rounded person.

The only way to make yourself a flexible person that can adapt to any environment is to invest your time in other areas besides academics. Put yourself out there and take up leadership positions. The only way to learn how to deal with a variety of personalities is to practice. What better way to hone your flexibility skills than through an organization that you are passionate about or a sport that you love. So make yourself irresistible for employers through your compatibility through flexibility.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Young Professionals Corner: 'The Perfect Manager'

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of guest posts from young VSCPA members dealing with topics of interest to young professionals. If you'd like to write or have a topic you'd like a future blogger to cover, please email VSCPA Academic & Career Development Coordinator Tracey Zink.

By Marian Millikan, CPA
Manager, Cherry Bekaert LLP

2013 was an exciting year for me. It was the year I was promoted to manager at my firm. I look back to my journey almost six years ago realizing that I’ve learned and grown so much. What I also remember is what I told myself six years ago, what I promised myself I would never forget: how it felt to be a staff accountant.
I remember sitting at my desk with my first tax return project, terrified that I was going to mess everything up (and from what I remember, I did). My eight hours of work somehow didn’t save, my return blew up in front of my face as the software crashed and I was in tears. Over the next few years I figured things out, I learned the valuable lesson of periodically saving work and I became more confident in myself.
It was my second year of being a staff when I realized while learning how to prepare returns, maneuvering the software and communicating with clients, that I also had to learn to work with management. To be able to take direction, understand what was needed of me, and perform the job. There were many times in the beginning I missed the mark. I thought I understood the project, but it turns out I didn’t. To me, that was failure, and it was stressful.
I eventually figured out how to work with different styles of management. In ANY industry or field you will have different types of management, whether you are in public accounting, private industry or government. You will have your micromanagers who check in with you every hour on a project, and you will have your managers who give you a down-and-dirty rundown of what needs to be done, and your job is to provide them with the finished product in perfect form. You have those that have the urgent, last-minute projects all the time . You have those that spend the time to walk you through a project and spend the time to teach you the tricks of the trade. The types are endless. It was my second year as a staff I envisioned what the perfect manager was. It was actually pieces of each of these individuals. Fortunately I was around highly competent management, but they were all different in the styles they used to manage. What IS the perfect manager? From a staff's view, what would that look like?

It was then I made it my goal. I wanted to remember what those who I would be managing wanted from me. I wanted to remember myself six years ago. So when I was promoted, I asked. I asked staff what they wanted in a manager, and here are some things I heard.

Qualities of the “perfect” manager (a staff's perspective)

·    Be direct: Let us (staff) know how long a project will take, so if I’m going down the wrong path, I know to stop and ask for advice before spending hours doing the wrong work. You will not receive the work you wanted, and I will be frustrated I blew the budget. Break down the project in steps if possible and be direct in what your expectations are for each part. This will keep us on track and on budget.

·    Be approachable: Foster an environment where staff can feel comfortable asking questions. This doesn’t mean to let us take the easy way out, but be inviting, challenge us at times to research the issue and then sit down with us to go over the solution. We want to learn, and we won’t if we don’t feel comfortable reaching out to you.

·    Teach Uu: Investing time in your staff will breed confidence and better performance.  Use corrections as a learning experience, not as a way to point out failures. Instead of making a correction, show us the correction, and tell us why you are doing something a different way.

·    Give feedback: Spend as much effort giving positive feedback as constructive feedback. Find time to take your staff for a coffee or a quick lunch.  Let them know one-on-one what they can do better and what they are doing right.  We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken, and we all need a little cheering section sometimes.  We need strategies for doing the job better

·    Be respectful: Most staff come in knowing that a manager has a lot more knowledge than they do. Respect is mutual and we learn by example, therefore a good manager can breed other good future managers if they create an environment where egos are checked at the door. Teach each of us to be the best we can be and let us grow in our careers by leading by example and creating a nurturing environment. 
So there you have it. New managers and old managers, put yourself into your staff’s shoes, and even your old shoes (if they still fit). I will always look back to where I came from, and how I got here. What things I stumbled on, and how I can help my team learn and grow in their careers.  I will always make it a priority to think more about others through my role as a manager, and less about myself. I may not ever be a “perfect” manager, but if I can help my staff be the best then can be, strive to continuously improve, and motivate them to exceed the goals they set for themselves, then I’ll consider myself a successful manager. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

More Details on 'Money on the Vine'

Did you read the "Money on the Vine" article in the January-February 2014 edition of Disclosures and come away wanting more information on the wine industry? Moss-Adams, a leading CPA firm working in the wine industry, has released its Wine Industry Financial Benchmarking Survey.
  • The survey found that:
  • The wine industry has generally recovered from the recession
  • Wine companies are seeing increased demand, particularly for bottles in the $10 – $20 price range
  • The industry is focused more on expansion than in recent years
  • Direct-to-consumer sales are on the rise
  • Land values in wine regions have increased
  • Growers are focused on increasing production and prices
The survey only covered wineries in California, Washington and Oregon, but the data is still illuminating for Virginia wineries and wine enthusiasts.

Here's our video interview with VSCPA member Lynn Carden, CPA, controller of Chateau Morrisette in Floyd County:

Monday, January 13, 2014

Young Professionals Corner: Stay Positive

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of guest posts from young VSCPA members dealing with topics of interest to young professionals. If you'd like to write or have a topic you'd like a future blogger to cover, please email VSCPA Academic & Career Development Coordinator Tracey Zink.

By Clare Levison, CPA
Alliant Techsystems, Inc.

Here’s an excerpt from my recently published book, Frugal Isn’t Cheap: Spend Less, Save More, and Live Better, that I thought was particularly applicable for this time of year.
Every year people make their New Year’s resolutions. Going to the gym, getting the house organized, and spending less are some of the standards.

But frequently after a few months, or maybe even weeks, the resolutions become too difficult to keep. Extra pounds return, extra dollars get spent, and that storage room in the basement never does get cleaned out. It’s such an established pattern, that one might say New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken. Why is this the case so many times? The resolution is typically an admirable one that would be of great benefit if kept. Yet, it is still too hard to follow through.

One of the reasons is that resolutions are often too broad. To be successful, you have to set specific goals. Let me suggest a specific goal you should embrace: I will surround myself with people that want to see me succeed. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But one of the sad realities of our society is that often people find it difficult to stomach others’ success and easy to revel in their failure.

You needn’t look any further than the Tiger Woods infidelity incident to know this is true. I’m not saying that what Tiger did wasn’t wrong. What I am saying is that the glee with which the media reported on his fall from grace was pretty apparent. People love to see success turn into failure. I suppose with celebrities, it just comes with the territory. Hopefully in your own life, you can find it easier to surround yourself with people who take a genuine interest in you and your success. More than likely, you already have a good idea who these people are and who they aren’t.

The world can be a cold place. Jealousy, pessimism, and negative gossip seem to spread more quickly and with more gusto than kindness and optimism. But it’s much warmer when you find those who are interested in lifting you up rather than tearing you down.
Encircle yourself with positive people. Ask for help when you need it, and reciprocate the support and encouragement you receive.

Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from FRUGAL ISN'T CHEAP © 2013 Clare K. Levison, CPA. Published by Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ. 800-227-3371. All rights reserved.

Clare K. Levison is a certified public accountant and national financial literacy spokesperson for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). She has appeared on major radio and television networks across the country and has served as a member of the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) Board of Directors. Levison was named one of the 2010 Top 5 Under 35 by the VSCPA. She has more than a decade of corporate accounting experience and is also an active volunteer, serving as PTA president, Girl Scout leader, and Sunday school teacher. Levison lives in Blacksburg, Virginia, with her husband and two daughters.

Website: www.clarelevison.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/clarelevison
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorClareLevison
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/clare-levison/26/481/584