Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The AICPA’s Leadership Academy Doesn’t Sound So Awful After All

First, I never implied the AICPA Leadership Academy was awful in the first place, I just to make sure we’re clear on that. I only use “awful” because you lot seem like the sort of people who mostly care about money and fulfillment, with neither of those necessarily mutually exclusive. It’s totally fine, we can’t all be leaders.

But one day, you kids are going to inherit the empire (scary, I know). When all the Boomer partners have retired and you’re looking at filing 2025’s tax returns, will you be at the top of the food chain setting the tone or still lingering at the bottom picking up DUIs on Saturday nights? Just think athe following is an account of the AICPA’s recent Leadership Academy in North Carolina by Joshua Partlow. Joshua is a CPA under 40 and a partner at Johnson Lambert & Co. LLP. I share it with you guys only because it’s pretty interesting, which can’t usually be said for a lot of the pro-industry fluff we come across.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the AICPA’s Leadership Academy—as a member of its third class—in Durham, NC. I was among 33 participants under the age of 36. The Academy started off like many seminars do in this mobile age, with participants glued to our smartphones and somewhat disconnected from our surroundings. But that disconnection would be short-lived.

The mood transitioned quickly to one of collaboration and engagement as the instructors—Gretchen Pisano, president Sounding Board Ink, LLC, Tom Hood, CPA, executive director and CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs and Jeannie Patton, AICPA vice president – students, academics & membership—began the Insight to Action process. We broke up into three groups to tackle three challenging real-life scenarios in business, non-profit and personal relationships. These tasks forced us to focus on the strengths of our characters, utilizing the i2A Strength Based Leadership program that we had been introduced to during our preconference workshops. The program coaches participants for leadership, teaching them self-awareness techniques, how to work from a source of natural strength and how to inspire their team to do the same.

My breakout group was tasked with the personal relationship scenario, helping a large, multi-generational family plan an annual vacation. What we learned was classic succession planning: the matriarch and patriarch of the fictional family had always taken the lead on making flight and destination arrangements and planning day-to-day activities. However, with a new dynamic involving grandchildren and in-laws, it was time for their adult children to step up and take the reins. It was a situation we could all relate to. The combination of strategic thought and the high quality of each and every participant’s contribution was amazing.

Strategic planning within the i2A model allowed us to interact, learn from one another and see, in a creative way, how our scenarios directly reflect what many of us are facing in our careers. We are all roughly the same age and coming into our time as leaders in our firms or organizations. Now, it’s not so much about building accounting experience and achievement (although that certainly plays a role). It’s more about finding within ourselves the courage and ability to mentor, guide and inspire. The experience opened my eyes to think differently—to think like a leader.

Why am I not surprised to see Tom Hood’s name show up?

Anyway, it’s too late to get on board for 2011 but if any of this sounds remotely interesting to you (hint: “leadership” = “getting people to do your evil bidding”), details on the 2012 Leadership Academy will be issued by the AICPA in January.

The AICPA Wants Your Thoughts on What the Future Holds for CPAs

Now is your chance to tell the AICPA exactly where you think the industry is headed in the future. CPAs don’t get many chances to be this candid about their chosen profession, so please make it count.

CPA Horizons 2025, coined “the profession’s effort to anticipate and plan for the future,” is a short survey that seeks to get professionals’ opinions on where the industry is going and the challenges it faces to get there. Participants are faced with the following directive:

Growing global competition, rapid technological development and increasing regulation are impacting the CPA profession today and will continue to in the coming years. As a result of the changing environment, how can the profession remain competitive? Will services being requested of the profession change? Will the profession’s core values, core services and core competencies remain the same or need to change to allow the profession to continue to best serve its clients and employers?

CPA Horizons 2025 is about your future and the future of your profession. It’s about forging a path to ensure both remain competitive in a rapidly changing world. Your participation in this profession-wide endeavor is vital in helping shape our collective future.

We are soliciting the thoughts of thousands of CPA’s along with other voices via this interactive survey, online discussion forums, in person forums and direct outreach to AICPA committee members, leaders in the profession and beyond. We ask for 15 minutes to help map out the next 15 years. Your 15 minutes will be on a limited # of questions that is a subset of a larger group of questions which will serve to identify what is on the Horizon impacting the profession. Your participation is important. What may the future hold? Help tell us.

Beyond answering simply yes or no questions based on pre-determined criteria, you will have the opportunity to write in your answers regarding trends, opportunities and challenges facing the profession. You will also get an entire box to fill in what you think the profession should do to remain relevant, a huge opportunity for those of you who feel the current food chain just isn’t doing it for you.

And then you get to watch a video. Frankly I’ve got to say this video was pretty depressing, showing how the U.S. is falling behind in the global scheme of things, continuously getting spanked by India and China when it comes to science, math and the economy. Ouch.

Take the survey here.

Survey Says: Accountants and Small Businesses are Optimistic About the Future

It must be survey season so since you kids received the last one so well (surely I jest), we humbly present this latest survey of 1,217 Intuit small business and 1,200 Intuit accountant customers between Oct. 15 – 20, 2010. Thanks, Intuit!

The good news is that there really is no good news but that hasn’t put a damper on survey respondents’ view of things to come. It’s sort of exceptional, in our opinion, that 75 – 80% of respondents feel today’s economic climate is just fair or poor but more than that feel optimistic about opportunities in the future.

In a considerable showing of resilience, 65 percent of accounting professionals and 54 percent of small business owners said their companies grew in the last 12 months. Despite this growth, 75 percent of accounting professionals and 80 percent of small business owners rate today’s economic climate as “just fair” or “poor.”

Both groups expressed optimism for the future, with 94 percent of accounting professionals and 87 percent of small business owners seeing opportunities to grow their businesses in today’s economy.

Well if there are going to be new opportunities once things look up, where are they going to come from? According to respondents, news and technology are the key:

77 percent of accounting professionals said “access to industry news and/or trends” is the most important; “investing in new technology” ranked second.

73 percent of small business owners placed “marketing and/or advertising” as the most important; 57 percent said they plan to focus on “expanding their range of offerings.”

Funny, Sage just asked 533 accountants and IT professionals what keeps them up at night and they responded with getting new clients and regulatory compliance. For Intuit’s respondents, however, client retention ranked higher than finding new ones.

When asked what keeps them up at night, 32 percent of accounting professionals said “keeping clients happy.” For 26 percent of small businesses, “paying bills” is their number one concern.

Fine, so what does all this mean?

“Accounting professionals and small business owners are extremely adaptable and flexible individuals,” said Shawn McMorrough, lead research manager of Intuit’s Accounting Professionals Division. “Despite feeling the pinch in this challenging economic environment, they are optimistic and continue to weather the rapidly shifting business environment. Their unrelenting passion for serving their customers helps accounting professionals and small businesses succeed in the face of any challenge the market presents them.”

Should the rest of the world take that as a good sign that things aren’t as bad as Jr Deputy Accountant, Michael Panzner and the Mogambo Guru might make it seem? It looks that way, though the doomsayers are still in business for the foreseeable future. Yay?

iPad’s Versatility Make It an Essential Tool for Some Accountants

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

With Apple generating much of the buzz, global tablet sales could reach nearly 20 million units by the end of the year, and nearly 55 million units by the end of 2012, according to Gartner Inc., an information technology research and advisory firm. In addition to Apple’s iPad, other manufacturers have developed f the tablet, such as BlackBerry’s PlayBook, Dell’s Streak, and Toshiba’s Journe Touch.

Not without its limitations, the iPad, which is larger than a mobile phone but smaller than laptop and netbook computers, has become rather indispensible for some accountants.

Apple adulation

“I got it because I work here in Arizona but I have 50 percent or more of my business on the East Coast back in Maryland where I originally came from,” said N. Mark Freedman, who has been a CPA for nearly four decades. “I had a netbook but it was too slow. Then the iPad came out and I started looking into it. For travel purposes, it’s phenomenal. It works faster than any computer I have worked with in the past.”

Freedman works off of a Citrix server that stores all of his programs; nothing is stored on any of his computers. He knew a Citrix application was available for the iPad and tested it before purchasing the device.

“By loading in that application, [the iPad] became a PC. I can open up my Citrix server [in Maryland] and use it to get to all my programs. I just couldn’t believe I could get my desktop on my iPad,” he said.

What’s more, Freedman recently purchased the latest generation iPhone, which he is able to use as a mouse when working his iPad.

“I am able to use this thing when I travel. It’s so light,” Freedman said. “When I see clients, I pick up my iPad and everything is there. It works wonderfully.”

Initially intrigued by the iPhone and how Apple devices manage data and information, Kathleen A. Carolin, CPA, of Scottsdale, AZ-based Kaiser & Carolin, P.C., purchased an iPad the day they went on sale.

“I just got done with tax season and had extra money in my bank account so I bought a toy I hoped I could justify buying,” Carolin told AccountingWEB. “I love that little toy.”

What she affectionately refers to as a toy, however, became much more.

“I am using my iPad to take notes at client meetings. It certainly beats walking into a client’s office and trying to hook up a laptop, wait for it to boot up, and then have it block my view of my clients. The iPad is much more unobtrusive,” Carolin said.

“I am able to get my e-mail on the iPad. So, unlike my BlackBerry, I can see attachments in full and living color,” she said. “I use [my BlackBerry] as a phone, but that’s all I use it for now. The screen is so small. Opening attachments on a BlackBerry is nuts. It’s barely worth doing.”

Carolin took her iPad to a recent American Institute of Certified Public Accountants conference in Las Vegas, using it with a wireless keyboard to take notes during three days of seminars. “It’s better than dragging a laptop with you.”

Using an app called LogMeIn, Carolin connects to her office computer with the iPad. “I was talking to an investment advisor and I said, ‘Oh yes I got a copy of that tax return today.’ He asked what that entity owns, so I was able to [access] my office computer and say, ‘Here’s the property that’s in that LLC.'”

Not only is the iPad useful for accounting tasks and handy for reading books and news publications, it also is quite the conversation starter.

“I have met so many people by carrying it with me and reading it at lunch,” Carolin said. “I went to the doctor and the nurse said ‘Oh, I have one of those,’ and we talked about the apps we have.”

Sour Apple

Despite what Apple idolaters might say, the iPad has its drawbacks – at least for accountants.

“I wouldn’t want to use it on a day-to-day basis as a regular computer. It’s a little more cumbersome to work [the iPad] with the mouse,” Freedman told AccountingWEB. “I fully recommend it as a backup, as a secondary computer, as a travel piece of equipment. For travel and going out to clients on a regular basis, it becomes your computer. I would imagine that if someone got skilled enough at it they could use it to perform audits out in the field.”

Freedman added that using the iPad’s virtual keyboard can be a bit problematic as it takes up nearly half of the device’s screen.

Although, the iPad has relegated Carolin’s BlackBerry to just-a-phone status, she said the Apple device isn’t ready to supplant her computer.

“It won’t replace my laptop yet, probably due to the size of it. I do audits and tax returns. If I go out to do an audit, I don’t think it will feel right to me just yet to use it to do Excel spreadsheets,” Carolin said. “I’m not there yet, but I’m not ruling it out, either.”

Managing Diversity for the Accounting Firm of the Future

E&Y tweeted an interesting release this morning regarding their outlook on cultural diversity and how it relates to future success, both at their firm and in tomorrow’s global economy. I encourage you to read the full text (linked above), but here is an exercept I want to focus on:

“Our recent study “Redrawing the map: globalization and the changing world of business” reveals that the boards of many global companies lack the diversity to deal with intercultural challenges. At the same time, they cite the need for internationally experienced staff as the most important cultural factor in conducting business globally.”

Every firm is well aware of the importance for cross-cultural efficiencies as an accelerator to getting business done in the global markets. I agree with the article’s point that, “If an organization does not leverage the potent weapon of diversity, it risks limiting its creative potential and ultimately losing its competitive edge.” This is absolutely true. But how does a firm balance the “need” for cultural diversity with the reality that the leadership of many clients oftentimes resembles more of an Old White Man’s Club than that of an idealistic HR workplace? From schoolyard to the boardroom, we as people are naturally drawn to the bubble of comfort created by surrounding ourselves with those who are similar to us; commonalty breeds security. Think back to your last happy hour or the lunch table in 4th grade – what has changed?

On a personal level, E&Y isn’t failing at its internal diversity efforts; per Caleb’s post last week, they are second among the Big4 in terms of overall diversity hires (29%) and their male/female ratio is an even-steven 50%. These numbers are most likely bolstered by increased retention over the last 18 months as well as a focus on diverse hiring from the campus pipelines.

That’s not to say that the ongoing effort to strike a better diversity balance is unrealistic or futile. The next generation of partners (i.e. you new associates sweating through your first 80 hour workweek) are better prepared for the global workforce than the average 20 year veteran partner. The influx of group work, community service, and international students enrolled in American higher education institutions remains at the origin of preparedness. Couple these attributes with the fact that these colleges and universities see the statistical advantage to stirring the Diversity Melting Pot, today’s students are prepared more than ever for the corporate boardroom. If only you could send your partners back to experience the same thing.

The challenge for any firm lies in managing the differences created across cultures and generations. The basis of this responsibility lies within personal relationships formed between colleagues; something that no report or Fortune statistic can analyze.

You can follow Daniel Braddock, your friendly Human Resources professional, on Twitter @DWBraddock.

Our Attempt to Give an Outlook on 2010

Thumbnail image for 2010.jpgAs is the wont of many fine publications, we’ll take a moment of your otherwise 100% chargeable day to dispense our outlook for 2010.
Many stories that were big in 2009 will be again and some stuff will just come out of nowhere. Here’s our stab at what we think you’ll be reading about in this corner of the blogosphere:
Layoffs – Will forced ranking continue or will we go back to the heyday when only new associates that ran naked through the hotel lobby at national training get let go?
The return of raises? – We’ve already got one guarantee courtesy of Bob Moritz but what about the rest of usual suspects?

The PCAOB’s fate – The SCOTUS decision could put an end to the Monday morning QBing.
IFRS vs. U.S. GAAP – Despite our sincerest wishes, the debate about who will use what and when it will happen and who will overlook everything is far from figured out.
Fraud – It’s a part of our lives. Accept it.
The latest on the CPA Exam – Thanks to our resident expert, you will pass in 2010. Or maybe you won’t.
Taxes – Whether it’s the IRS’s latest demonstration of efficiency or the latest attempt by Charlie Rangel to disqualify himself from his job, we’ll be sure you know everything worth knowing.
And of course we’ll be covering the latest rumors floating around your favorite firms. Whether it’s inappropriate use of email, the latest asinine cost-saving initiatives, the banishment of music, Tim Flynn’s whereabouts we’ll cover it.
Keep us updated by sending us tips and suggestions to [email protected] and we’ll serve it up.

The Year Ahead Poll Results

The voting ended last night and we know your anticipation is reaching fever pitch so we’ve finally presented the results, after the jump.

1. White Collar Slavery: 47.3%
2. Happiness Rating: Zero: 26%
3. Swap Green Visors:13.7%
4. Big Four Union: 13%
Troubling news as you can see. Nearly 75% of you are expecting to be underpaid and miserable. We recommend that you start some sort of cash only business and get your asses into therapy.
The bottom 27% of you seem to be proactive at least but 13% of you may be viewed by some as socialists. However, that seems to be the hot thing these days so we say go for it.

The Year Ahead

We’re sure that some of you need some cheering up, so we’ll throw out a little participatory exercise.
The BBC ran a piece yesterday asking readers to predict their year ahead in three words. We’ve noticed that brevity isn’t a strong suit for some of you so this should be a nice challenge.
In the comments, describe your year ahead in three words. If we get enough good submissions we’ll run a poll tomorrow because we’re sure we won’t want to work that hard. Keep it relevant people. ‘Pwn more noobs’ and the like will be ignored with extreme prejudice.
Impress us.