“Capitolizing” Politics by Sam Cheng, CPA, CGMA, CAE

Trump.  Cabinet appointments.  The women’s rallies.  The immigration executive order.  Education funding at the state level.   Balancing the budget for Texas in this session.  In a time when it often appears that our system isn’t working, it makes one wonder how we have survived over 240 years as a country.  How can we make America great again?  Let’s just start with making Texas great again.

A few weeks ago, CPAs from all over the state were in Austin to be sure that we were active in the process as Texas kicked off its legislative session.   There were issues that are near and dear to our hearts, but nothing causing consternation at the level of women or immigrants.

What was evident was that the process surprisingly works in a relatively historical place.  I have been to the Capitol many times, but decided to take a different perspective this time.  Walking up to the Capitol the first thing that you note are the live oaks and pecan trees that surround the grounds.  I am not an arborist, but the trees were spiraling wonders of nature with ranches that appear to be the second level of protection after the metal fencing installed in 1896 to our state capita l.

As you enter the steps to the Capitol and wait to go through the metal detectors you notice the door knobs and door hinges that bear the details of the state of Texas and all of the fine craftsmanship of the intricate wood work on the door.  These aren’t doors that could be special ordered at Lowe’s or Home Depot.  All of these little things hold the structure of our Capitol and the government together and have for a very long time.

Walking the halls once you get inside is like a labyrinth.  I am sure that the legislators and their staffs know the path as well as the many hidden shortcuts, but to an outsider who only visits every other year this is a mass of people moving in a chaotic motion with no real purpose.  Ant farms appear to be working with more organization.  This mass of people holds together the democracy of our state, and has been since joining the U.S. in 1845.

Our map is a necessary clue to find each of the representatives we are supposed to visit.  Even with the map we still find it possible to get lost.  A woman offers assistance in noting that the room numbers are designed to give you directional guidance.  Imagine the E2.102 would be office number in the east direction.  Order among the chaos.

We unfortunately don’t get to see the two representatives that we were hoping to meet, but we do get to talk to their staffs and let them know about our CPA platform for this session.   Both staffs were very accommodating and willing to assist.  Again, what appeared to be a waste of time did have a small or hopefully impactful consequence.

This system, as crazy as it seems, works.  It is the best in the world and we are all fortunate to live in this country and democratic system.  What sometimes seems like chaos in the big picture is a system that will evidently work.  Good values that formed this system will ultimately work and the people will have a voice.

What is our role as CPAs?  Be active in any way you can.  Representatives devote more time to personal correspondence rather than an email or random call to their office.  Each chapter has a PAC representative that could sure get you involved on a more personal level.  This doesn’t have to mean writing a check or writing a bigger check.   It just means doing your part for our democratic system.

sam-cheng

Sam Cheng is the Director of Accounting for Earthbound Trading Company in Grapevine, TX. He is a member of the Dallas Chapter and currently serves on the TSCPA Board of Directors.

 

 


Freedom

In my past three blogs I’ve talked about time, attitude and integrity; but if you think about it, all three of these concepts really center around one thing–choice.  The choice of

  • What to do with your time
  • How to react to events
  • What actions to take

Everyone has their own reason why they think this country is great; and many of those reasons are linked to the concept of “freedom.”  But too many people treat freedom as some sterile thing that is an end unto itself.  I think what most people really mean when they talk about freedom is really choice.  The freedom to choose

  • What they want to do
  • How they live their life
  • When to call out right from wrong

That is the freedom that is the envy of much of the world.  Don’t fail to take advantage of it.


Integrity

The best attitude and most efficient use of time can only take you so far if you don’t also combine it with integrity.  Integrity at it’s base is about right and wrong.  It’s your moral compass.  It’s what you do when the doors are closed, the lights are off, and no one is watching!  On a more serious note, integrity is about doing the right thing even though it might cost you in

  • Money
  • Position
  • Power

I’m sure many of you have heard of the headline test–would you mind the world reading about what you did on the front page in sixty-point type?  The modern version is probably would you mind if the world heard what you did via a tweet that went viral?  The one thing you have to realize is that the tweet won’t be your version of what happened.  It will be written to make what you did sound as bad as possible (without being an outright lie).

Thinking of how bad your action can be perceived can, however, be really helpful in evaluating your actions.  While some people who commit fraud are outright greedy, others do so because they cloud their view by saying they are doing it to save the company or people’s jobs.  Saving someone’s job does seem the moral thing to do, but that is why looking at how bad your actions could be perceived can be helpful.  Committing fraud, no matter the reason, is never acceptable.

I also think taking on the perspective of others is what we need more of in the world today.  Too often we get isolated in our on fixed perceptions of events and circumstances.  While sometimes both perceptions and proposed reactions are moral and acceptable, other times both are not.  That is when integrity can help you decide what to do.


Attitude

If time is the what, attitude is the how.

My first piece of advice to anyone is to do whatever you do well, to the best of your ability.  You may feel like the assignment or task is meaningless, but people are always watching.  They will think if you can’t handle that meaningless task well, then how can you be trusted with something more important.  Not doing your best will get you a label – “doesn’t care” or “lazy” – labels you don’t want.

Attitude is more that doing whatever you do well, it also is defined by how you react to situations.  How often do you hear people blame everyone and everything but themselves for what is wrong with their life?  They didn’t get the promotion because of the boss; they didn’t enjoy the movie because of the person in front of them; they didn’t get the grade because of the teacher.  Nothing is their fault; that’s a crock.

Attitude is also about taking responsibility for your actions and what happens as a result.  So, am I asking you to make the best of whatever happens?  Sort of.  Life happens and you can’t control everything.  Bad things happen.  You can blame life for your problems, or you can try to do something about it.  Instead of wallowing in self-pity, how about doing something to make the situation incrementally better.

It’s the people with the attitude of taking responsibility and doing something to make things better that other people want to work with, follow and do something to help. If you think about it, your attitude can be infectious, and don’t you want to infect people with a good positive attitude, not a bad one?


A Wild Thought on Personality Assessments Inspired by Gladwell by Mark Goldman, CPA

Last week I was listening to a podcast where Malcolm Gladwell, the accomplished author and journalist, was being interviewed. It was a general interview and covered several aspects of his life, but one particularly insightful comment left me with a topic I desperately felt the need to write about…

Personality assessments are widely used for pre-employment screening in today’s market. Some are meant to be used as pre-employment screening tools and some are not.  However, whether or not they are meant for that purpose it is up to the user to decide what decisions they will make based on the particular assessment.

Gladwell’s comment was that it is not so much a person’s “inclinations” that matter, but more so how they compensate for those inclinations.  This comment really struck me.  Personality assessments are frequently built to help discover a person’s natural inclinations, and then recommendations are made regarding the individual for the giver of the assessment to consider.  However, I’m not sure that most assessments are built in such a way to measure the extent to which someone works at compensating for those inclinations and thereby better their performance in a given situation.  In other words, assessments don’t always measure the individual’s determination to be successful, which can make all the difference in the world.

So what is the point of this post…?

Personality assessments are highly useful – in fact, I use them for my own company when doing internal hiring.  However, it is important to use them as they are intended – to give you additional insight into characteristics of an individual and not as the ultimate deciding factor on whether or not someone is capable of performing in a specific position.  Their determination to be successful also needs to be considered.

Sometimes hiring a very determined individual that has areas they can continue to develop in but that is constantly looking to better themselves can be better than hiring an individual with innate ability but without the same level determination to constantly improve.

I would very much welcome your comments.

Until next time, I wish you the best in all your searches.

Mark Goldman CPA

Mark sketch blue background (3)

Mark Goldman is the founder of MGR Accounting Recruiters, a San Antonio based recruiting company whose primary business is the placement of accounting professionals in both permanent and contract positions.

 


Time

I recently had the opportunity to address the graduating class of CPAs from the Dallas CPA Society Leadership Academy.  I spoke to them about time, attitude and integrity.  I plan to cover these topics in a series of blogs and I will start with talking about time in this blog.

Time is a magical thing.  You can give it away, but you can’t buy it.  Once it’s gone you can never get it back, but there is always more right around the corner.  It is also the great equalizer.  It doesn’t matter if you are the highest paid CEO or the lowest paid employee, everyone has the same amount of time.

When people hear about all that I do and have done, the first question is almost always, how do you do it all? The answer is time – I don’t waste it.  I don’t use it on things I don’t enjoy and I use a simple prioritization in deciding what to do with my time.  My priorities are:

  • My God
  • My Family
  • My Career
  • My Profession

If you don’t have a focus and a center for your life, then you will wonder around lost spending time in all the wrong places.  Many people look at all the things I’ve done in the profession and ask, how can you say you’ve put family ahead of that?  My answer is that, yes, I missed an occasional event, but I made it to six graduations (and counting), celebrated every birthday and anniversary, attended dozens of concerts, hundreds of soccer games and countless other events and activities.

My real secret to success, however, was to combine things.  We made going to the CPA Society annual meeting an annual family vacation.  Some of the best family stories came from those trips, like getting upgraded for no extra charge to a three-story suite in San Destin and accidentally locking my daughter out on the balcony forcing her to crawl in through an open window above the door. Or listening to my four children sing happy birthday to their Mom in front of a hundred CPAs (they still haven’t forgiven me nor Donna Heavener for that one).  Yes, I might have missed the beach outing in the morning while I was in CPE or meetings, but I did spend breakfast, lunch, the afternoon, dinner and the evening with them.  Just ask any teenager, that is more than enough Dad time for any of them. As a result of my professional involvement, my kids got to go to Orlando, Washington DC, New York, the Bahamas and countless beaches. My wife and I have been able to spend time together in places from Las Vegas to Brussels.  My family is as intertwined with my profession as my career is.

My career has also been very important, but the magic of being a CPA is that you have more control over your schedule than many people.  You can carve out time for the doughnut with Dad first thing in the morning or leave a little early to make it home to chaperone the band going to a Friday night football game.  Sure, the work still had to get done and it did – just not necessarily strictly between 9 and 5.

Spending time on the right things is the foundation for a successful life, but it is not enough.  You also have to have the right attitude and the proper integrity, but you’ll have to wait for future blogs to hear about those topics.


Updated definition of a business

The FASB recently updated its definition of a business.  Many people’s first reaction is probably, “so what, why does that matter?”  It matters because you account for the sale and purchase of an asset one way, and the sale and purchase of a business in another manner.  And, quite frankly, accounting for the sale and purchase of an asset is much easier.  People’s second reaction is probably “come on, you mean people couldn’t tell when they were selling an asset and when they were selling a business?”  The answer to that is yes.  One might think that if you sell a building, you’re selling an asset, but that is not necessarily the case.  There are companies that are in the business of operating buildings.  They own, lease, improve and manage the buildings.  Isn’t an individual building then no different from a division of a company that provides a distinct product or service?

The FASB has decided to clarify the definition of a business by making three distinct changes to the definition of a sale of a business.

  1. If substantially all of the fair value of the gross assets transferred is concentrated in a single asset or a group of similar identifiable assets, then the transfer if a sale of an asset and not the sale of a business.
  2. The transfer must include at least one substantive process to be the sale of a business. The old definition did not require the transfer to include a substantive process.  Instead, under the old definition, as long as a “market participant” could add a substantive process, then the transfer was considered a business.
  3. The definition of a business also requires that the transfer include an “output.” That definition is now aligned with the definition in the new revenue recognition standard – that is it defines an output as “the result of inputs and processes applied to those inputs that provide goods or services to customer, investment income or other revenues.”

The result of these changes is that there will be fewer transfers accounted for as sales of a business and more transfers accounted for as sales of an asset.  That is great news because it will result in simpler accounting.  The rules are effective in 2018, but this is one you might want to consider adopting early because it will make your life easier.