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.
Christine Ann Botosan is the newest member of the FASB, joining on July 1, 2016. You can see more of her background here. Here are a few highlights:
- Botosan has spent her career in academia; her background does not list work as an auditor or a preparer of financial statements.
- Botosan is a Certified Valuation Analyst. This is an interesting skill to add to the Board as it continues to debate the future of fair value accounting.
- Botosan is a Chartered Professional Accountant; that is she is a Canadian CPA.
She will be the only non-U.S. CPA on the current Board and to my knowledge is the first Canadian Chartered Accountant to serve on the Board.
A project team I worked on several years ago adopted a saying – “Silence is Acceptance.” This is akin to another saying I’ve heard which is “speak now or forever hold your piece,” but really goes further. I mean you can disagree with something, but still choose to not ever express those disagreements. It’s another thing altogether to say not only will you not express disagreement, but in fact your silence is professing agreement with the subject of discussion.
This issue was brought to mind when I was listening to a FASB discussion on comment letters related to their proposed changes to pension accounting. One board member pointed out that they only received 36 comment letters on the topic and therefore the lack of a substantial number of comment letters meant that most preparers, auditors and users must have agreed with the FASB’s position. I would like to point out that it’s possible that many preparers, auditors and users of financial statements don’t deal with pension accounting much anymore. Defined benefit pension plans seem to be going the way of the buggy whip. Yes a few still exist and even fewer are actually active and open to new participants, but many CPAs can now go their whole career without touching the accounting for a defined benefit pension plan. But nonetheless, they all must agree with the FASB because they didn’t bother to write a comment letter.
I write this because I hear from so many of my colleagues about their disagreement with a decision made by the FASB, the PCAOB, the ASB or the SEC, and yet when I ask them if they commented when the rule was proposed the answer is almost invariably, no. I know we are all busy people, but if you don’t let your opinions be heard then remember, silence is not just about “holding your piece,” it’s about “acceptance;” at least in the mind of all those standard setters out there.
The FASB recently issued an invitation to comment on its agenda for the coming years. With the releases of standards on revenue, leases, financial instruments and credit impairment, the big work from the previous agenda is now more or less complete. While smaller projects will always be part of what the FASB does, it’s now time to decide what big projects the FASB should work on in the coming years. The invitation to comment suggests four areas for the FASB to focus on:
- Intangible Assets
- Pensions and Other Postretirement Benefit Plans
- Distinguishing Liabilities from Equity
- Reporting Performance and Cash Flows
While pensions and postretirement liabilities, as well as, distinguishing liabilities from equity will have a more limited audience, everyone needs to pay attention to intangible assets and reporting performance and cash flows. With the balance sheets of public companies only showing assets that make up 20% of their market value on average, there appears to be some pretty important assets missing from most company’s reporting. Today those assets are missing because that is what is required by the rules. Research and development must be expensed in the U.S., and other intangibles like the value of customer relationships and brand names are only valued when they are acquired as part of a purchase of another business. If you create that value on your own, then it never gets to the balance sheet and all of the efforts and costs are flushed out of the income statement as expense. While the idea of trying to value those types of assets gives me pause and makes me wonder if all CPAs will be forced to become valuation experts, the fact that our product – financial statements – is becoming increasingly irrelevant makes me think we do need to do something in this area.
The final area of interest is focused directly on those increasingly irrelevant financial statements. The FASB has previously released some ideas on how to completely revamp the income statement, and if you saw the initial proposal on not-for-profit financial statements, you saw that the FASB is very interested in requiring companies to report operating cash flows using the direct method. If you thought implementing the changes in accounting on revenue, leases and financial instruments was fun, having to set up the systems and process to gather cash receipts and expenditures to report cash flows under the direct method will make us all wonder why we became CPAs. Such a requirement will essentially force companies to keep a whole separate set of books. That means we can add the cash set of books to the accrual and tax basis sets of books we all keep today.
If you have thoughts on these items or other items you think the FASB should address you can send comments to the FASB through October 17. If you are really worked up about these issues you can also ask to participate in roundtables to discuss the agenda that will be held in the fourth quarter of 2016. You have to request an invitation (and submit written comments), but like voting, if you don’t participate, you have no one to blame but yourself for the outcome.
LinkedIn is an amazing tool for many reasons… certainly not just for job hunting. However, a profile built for job search purposes needs additional content that may not be as vital for profiles built for other purposes. The way in which that content is presented is key to making a good first impression if in fact the first time an employer notices you is through a LinkedIn search.
These four items are necessities if you are using your LinkedIn profile to get noticed by employers:
- Keywords. Just as keywords are important in your resume, they are equally important on LinkedIn. While a non-job-search profile can be less complete, it’s important to make sure your profile as a job seeker covers all your pertinent skills. The search feature on LinkedIn works similarly to search features in resume databases and applicant tracking systems. Therefore the more you can work important keywords such as skills, software, and common titles into your profile, the more ‘findable’ you will be.
- Subtitle usage. The title that shows up under your name can be an incredibly powerful tool for job seekers. While many people use it simply as another title line (ie.. “Accountant”), it is actually much more beneficial to use it to state your intent to locate a new job. Listing something such as, “Looking for my next Accounting opportunity”, or “Searching for a position in Tax,” is much more likely to attract faster attention than a simple title. When searches are performed, this is the line that will show-up directly under your name, thereby making it obvious to any potential employer that you are interested in being contacted. (Caution: If you are currently working and your search is confidential, you obviously would not want to do this. It is best used when you can be open about your search.)
- Recommendations. From the standpoint of a job seeker, these are LinkedIn’s version of online references. Recommendations can be helpful, but make sure they portray the impression you want them to portray to a potential employer before approving them to be listed on your profile. Also, while a few recommendations certainly doesn’t hurt, going overboard with them can. If you have to scroll more than once to get through that section, you probably have more than you need.
- Picture. This is in total contrast to your resume where you definitely would not want to add your picture (at least in the US). However, your LinkedIn profile is truly incomplete without the inclusion of a good photo. The most common issue we see with job seeker’s LinkedIn photos are that they frequently are a selfie where the person was concentrating so much on taking the picture that they forgot to smile. LinkedIn profiles without a picture seem cold and distant, but LinkedIn profiles with a frowning picture may make you seem unapproachable. It isn’t necessary to have a professional photo done, but make sure it is a smiling photo that portrays the type of professional image that you wish potential new employers to see.
I hope this short list benefits you. When utilized appropriately, a well written LinkedIn profile can do wonders to simplify your job search by causing the right opportunities to actually come to you instead of you having to find them.
Until next time, I wish you the best in your career.
Mark Goldman CPA
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.
Mark graduated from St. Mary’s University in 1992 with a Bachelors Degree in Accounting. After working for a few years in public accounting, he entered the recruiting industry. In late 2006 he started MGR Accounting Recruiters, which was recognized by the San Antonio Business Journal as one of the fastest growing companies in 2010 and 2011. He currently serves on the board for the San Antonio Chapter of TSCPA as President-Elect. Mark received awards for outstanding work as a volunteer with SACPA for the 2009-2010, 2011-2012, and 2013-2014 chapter years. In addition to his work with the SACPA Chapter, Mark is also involved with Financial Executives International and volunteers with the career transition ministry at his church.
On a personal note, Mark is married to his high school sweetheart, Sayuki Goldman, who owns and manages the business with him. They have a beautiful 9-year-old daughter that is growing up too fast.