Top 10 song list for those who just struggled through the October 15 tax deadline as well as those struggling through third quarter close:
10. Tired Eyes – Neil Young
9. I want to go home – Fast Domino
8. So Tired – Rod Stewart
7. I’m Tired – Savoy Brown
6. Sick and tired of being sick and tired – Disciple
5. Sick and Tired – Grateful Dead
4. All the tired horses – Bob Dylan
3. I’m so tired – The Beatles
2. I’m tired – The version from Madeline Kahn
1. Show me the way to go home – The version from Jaws
I would venture to guess that most CPAs in industry will never go through a bankruptcy affecting their area of employment. The thought never crossed my mind either, but after 28 years of working in various industries, it happened. As a CPA, I found myself in the midst of this process and learned quite a bit from this very difficult situation.
Being the largest secured creditor in this bankruptcy, our strongest asset to develop the case was the documentation and recordkeeping. The lawyers insisted having this down to a tee, and although I wasn’t deposed, getting the facts straight gave the lawyers a strong arsenal for all the legal documents that followed. The greatest lesson learned was document, document, document.
Strong communication (and learning bankruptcy lingo quickly) was also key. A new team of lawyers, forensic valuation accountants and bankruptcy accountants quickly came to my rescue. Once they understood the facts of our position, they were quick to position the organization for the defense. The strong team of accounting experts developed valuation analysis, cash analysis and forecasting models. While I provided the facts and internal resources, they coached me on the legal position to help the team. The next lesson learned was to stay flexible and always open to learning new ideas.
Staying on track and on time was the motto to this case. Bankruptcies are extremely expensive on all accounts. The legal team published a calendar of events normal to the bankruptcy process with deadlines and deliverables. By anticipating the needs for the next filing, and preparing analysis ahead of schedule, the legal team was able to stay ahead of the game. Just like a monthly close calendar, we stuck to the plan, met deadlines, reviewed legal documents and the lawyers were able to sell our position.
After months of supporting the bankruptcy team, long nights reading legal documents, negotiating with the judge and multiple depositions (luckily not my own) we won the case. By now, the lawyers and accounting experts are long gone and me, the industry CPA, picked up yet another entity to consolidate.
We’ve all experienced it. We have our agenda set for the day and we sit down and take that first sip of our drink, and either we open up an email or the phone rings and the client or your boss hands you something that means you can’t do what you planned to do today, or maybe even this week (or longer – yikes). There are two ways to react to this event.
One is to grumble how it’s everyone else’s fault for messing up your plans and now you can’t possibly get everything done that needs to be done. The other is to re-prioritize your plans, determine what is the most important and what can be put off – basically revise your plan.
While the first option feels warm and comfortable, the “it’s not my fault” attitude is one of the things I think is most wrong in the world today. People say their problems are due to their parents, their poor lot in life or just plain old bad luck. Nothing is “their fault.” The second option is more about taking responsibility. Life constantly throws us curve balls and the question is how we adjust.
While our profession is about integrity, putting the public first and doing what is right, in the end all of that adds up to being responsible. The first act of responsibility is how you react to the events around you. Note I said react, not control. We like to talk about controls a lot in our profession, but we can never forget while we can attempt to control processes, we ultimately can’t control life. Instead we need to be prepared for things to get out of control and then it is our job to bring come semblance of order back to the situation. And bringing order means taking responsibility for doing so.
I recently celebrated a milestone birthday; one of those that ends in a “0.” As I was looking at my office wall and reflecting on all the events and accolades that make up my life, my eye moved to my CPA certificate. I smiled when I once again realized that I became a CPA on the same day I was born. I think it’s pretty cool that I get to celebrate by birthday, into life and into my profession, on the same day. Then I looked at the year and realized this year marked the point where I have been a CPA for over half of my life.
When people ask me who I am there are many things that go through my mind – Christian, husband, father, Director of Accounting at AT&T – but one thing that also always makes the list is that I’m a CPA. I think back to when I became and CPA and all of the changes that have occurred in our profession since that time and I am amazed.
- CPE was already required, but it was new enough that the “old-timers” (am I one of those now) were still complaining about it; now CPE is old hat and the discussion instigating all the complaints is not about hours but about the potential to actually have the measure and prove you learned things.
- The “5-year rule” was just being rolled out. There was concern about getting enough people to stick around for the 5th year; now the question is how do we make sure there are enough teachers to teach all the people sticking around for that 5th year.
- The CPA exam was still pencil and paper (and no calculator) and only given twice a year; now you can take it part by part on a computer – that’s almost like an open book test!
- Many CPAs started in public accounting, but once they left they were gone for good – the old up or out process; now people leave accounting firms, go back, leave and go back again even to and from different accounting firms.
And finally, back then there was this young Schneider CPA in Georgia ready to make his mark in the profession. Now there is a young Schneider CPA in New York ready to make her mark in the profession. I wonder if her certificate will be dated the same as her birthday?
Sometimes people don’t think of the life of a CPA in Industry as being “fast paced.” Most times they aren’t, however 2016 is for me. I started school again last year to get my MSA in Accounting, so this semester I’m taking two classes – one lecture class and one online. Then I decided to get married in September, so I’m planning that event as well. So, yes things are a little crazy at the moment.
Meanwhile back at work, I’m in the middle of a financial statement audit, preparing my management team for a SOC audit coming up at the end of October, and our company is growing; so there are many additional functions my department has been called on to perform. Oh and I told the local CE Coordinator I would speak at a CE event on Cyber Security. I need the CE, of course, for my CISA license and it is a good topic for our members. I did a research paper on it for my MSA class last semester.
Often times you think you don’t have time to breathe, however you make the time and then life gets a little better. When CPAs are this busy, they seem to learn more and retain more about the profession, and get involved with their chapters to share valuable information. At least I find this has been true for me.
I don’t know when or where it started, but I’m tired of the rest of the profession calling CPAs who work for companies “preparers.” CPAs in public accounting are often referred to as practitioners. What is implied is that they actually practice accounting, while those of us who work for companies do something less. This implied double standard needs to stop.
If you have any doubts let’s look at what we “preparers” have to be:
- Writers – we have to tell the story of the company and what it did in the past few years in plain English so that non-accountants can understand what happened.
- Analysts – we have to analyze the financial and non-financial numbers so we can help others understand what happened and help them understand what is useful in predicting future results.
- Investigators – before we can analyze the results and write about them we have to dig into multiple systems to figure out what happened in the first place.
- Valuation experts – We have to understand how to value all sorts of assets from patents, to licenses to stocks to whole businesses. It’s not enough to rely on the experts. We have to understand multiple valuation techniques, key assumptions, what might change the results and why the final values are the right ones.
- Legal experts – we have to evaluate purchase contracts, sales contracts and employment contracts, as well as evaluate and measure outcomes of undecided cases in court.
But with all these great abilities there is one missing, the ability to get people to stop calling us “preparers.” Maybe it’s time to reverse the roles. While auditors “practice” those of us in business “do.” So until someone can come up with a better term instead of calling us “preparers,” call us the “doers.”
With Labor Day in the past and football season starting up it is time for Fall, even if we have yet to feel a hint of any nip in the air here in Texas. And as CPAs we question things that our fellow citizens may not even think about; things like:
- How much revenue does Six Flags book in 2016 related to their Fall specials on season passes for 2017?
- What airline route has the highest profit margin? I mean it can’t cost airlines twice as much to fly to Bentonville from Dallas as it does to New York, but the tickets cost twice as much.
- How much money are sports teams leaving on the table because they don’t price their tickets like airlines? Another way to look at it is how much money is being made by sellers on sites like StubHub?
- How many school booster organizations will be taken advantage of because of lack of basic financial controls like having two people handle cash?
- How much of the cost of that beer you are drinking at the pregame tailgate goes to pay for ads that will air during the game?
I hope you have a great Fall enjoying the games, family time and maybe even the weather, in a few weeks, while taking that special view of events around you that only CPAs have.